BERKELEY - Back in action after winning the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s title in June, the California Golden Bears continue playing the seven-a-side, Olympic code of the game in three tournaments this October and November, culminating with the conference showdown Nov. 2-3 at the PAC Sevens Championship hosted by UCLA in Los Angeles.
Cal will miss several key players and their experience entering the autumn, including senior captain Seamus Kelly, the team’s 7s record holder for appearances (41) and tries (35) who is taking the semester off following a busy summer with the national team. The Bears will also be without the graduated Ahmed Chehade and Anthony Lombardo, the soon-to-graduate Danny Barrett and their combined 54 appearances and 30 tries in 7s. Nevertheless, Cal is focused on early-season 7s before transitioning back to 15s against the PAC Rugby Conference, Varsity Cup teams and other traditional rivals in the spring season.
“We are attempting to dial in the correct volume of Fall 7s into our annual plan,” said head coach Jack Clark. “We thought we might have played in a couple too many 7s competitions last fall, so we’ve made the adjustments this season.”
A competition squad of only 15 players will be selected to compete in the first event of the fall season, the West Coast 7s hosted by Cal Poly on Oct. 12. Scheduled to feature 15 teams with each playing four matches, the event bundles all the challenges of a weekend 7s tourney into one day as the teams start early and play late into the day with very short recovery times.
The Saint Mary’s Sevens Invitational offers a very different format for the Bears Oct. 26-27 on Treasure Island. Cal originally declined the invitation to participate that weekend in the 16-team event held only one week before the PAC Sevens, but with the format changed to allow inclusion of unlimited rosters, Cal then accepted the chance to offer playing time deep down the roster while still able to keep a group fresh for the conference tournament the following weekend.
In the Bears’ fall finale at the PAC Sevens Nov. 2-3, Cal will select a 15-player squad to join member university peers on campus at UCLA, where the Bruins proved to be adept hosts and talented opponents in last year’s inaugural PAC Conference campaigns. The blue and gold would be happy to have as much success as the Bears did at the 2012 conference 7s in Los Angeles, where Cal ran the table to win the event and exited the weekend with the best points differential (+124), most total points (167), most tries (27) and fewest points allowed (43).
“The PAC Sevens is the focus of our campaign this autumn. We want to give ourselves the best possible shot at winning the conference 7s title,” coach Clark said.
Clark continued: “The Cal Poly tournament will allow us to open our account and see what we need to improve upon, a bit of a systems check. The Saint Mary’s competition will provide some developmental opportunities for our depth chart. Our starters won’t play much, if at all, in the Treasure Island event, but it will be a good experience and valuable for the young guys. Together with our training, we hope this will be the right volume to snag our second PAC Sevens title.”
Returning Cal upperclassmen with significant 7s experience on the team include four seniors in 2013 7s All-Americans Jake Anderson, the No. 2 try-scorer in Cal’s 7s history with 23, 2013 All-American Josh Tucker, 2012 7s All-American Brad Harrington and Andre Coquillard, a two-time CRC 7s roster selection who started in last November’s PAC 7s final. Other young returners who gained valuable experience at the 2013 CRC 7s are juniors Andrew Battaglia, whose 38 appearances are No. 2 all-time at Cal in 7s, Nicklas Boyer (20 appearances, T-7th) and Jesse Milne; and sophomores Harry Adolphus, Patrick Barrientes, Anthony Salaber and Russell Webb, whose 46 conversions are the most in Cal’s 7s history.
A large group of student-athletes stand on the cusp of breaking into the depth chart’s upper echelons, including seniors Jared Braun, Tiaan De Nysschen, Carl Hendrickson and Max Shaulis; juniors Michael Bush, Matthew Chipman and Eakalafi Okusi; and sophomores Miles Honens, Charles Giraud and Cameron Todd.
Still working their way back from injuries as Cal enters its 7s season are 2012 7s All-American Paul Bosco, who was knocked out of the spring season against Arizona in February; along with Alec Gletzer, whose injury was sustained in New Zealand on his tour with the 2013 All-Americans; and Lucas Dunne.
With opportunities to see the Rugby Bears compete in Southern, Central and Northern California this autumn, supporters can cheer the blue and gold as the team continues to hone its 7s program. The fast-paced and unpredictable style of rugby 7s is something fans won’t want to miss.