COACHES CORNER: PRESEASON RECAP
Director of Rugby Sean Duffy and the Wildcats are ready for 2020. (Photo credits: Alex Ho)
By Sean Duffy
Jan 6- Happy New Year. With the preseason, and 2019, wrapped up, we look ahead to this month, our new squad, and the direction of our program. I wanted to give you a peek in to how the preseason went and what's ahead for both our Men's and Women's teams.
OUR FAMILY HAS DOUBLED
As most know, I was promoted in July to Director of Rugby, the first role of its kind in our university's history. A bit daunting, but exciting at the same time. In this position, I remain Head Coach for our Men's team, while providing support for our Women's side. With the bulk of my experience being in Men's Rugby, I went in with an open mind, open ears, and a goal of simply supporting our Women and their coaches as best I can. My #1 goal was and still is to unite the teams in to one program. I'm incredibly grateful to our Director of Campus Recreation Troy Vaughn for believing in me and believing in our sport, and I'm happy to say we are on the path towards this united program in 2020.
STEPS FORWARD IN SEVENS
After a disappointing end to our Sevens championship season last year, it was great to see us take the next step, with Ben Scoular leading the side and Matt Rogers supporting him as a Vice Captain. It says a lot about Matty to captain the side as a Senior, come back for his fifth year, yet push for Ben to take the reins of the Sevens program. Credit to both of those guys for trusting a new plan as well. We created a Freshmen-Sophomore side for the first time, which was tremendously valuable. We're blessed with the depth to do this, and it helped us identify future stars like Brendon Paulsen, Will McCausland, and Maxime Cathala, while allowing strong Sophomores like Matthew Start to lead from the front. We got a peek in to the future of our Sevens that weekend, and it helped us establish the depth we'll need. Reaching the Cup Final of both the West Coast Sevens and PAC-12 Championships, and to be the only team to do so says a lot about these guys and it will keep them hungry for the next breakthrough that we hope will be in May.
RUGBY FOR ALL
You've got two models in College Rugby in 2020- small schools embracing the sport in the interest of growing their brand and enrollment, and traditional universities with various levels of recognition for the game. We're one of a small handful of programs that is a true hybrid of these, with a commitment that started in 1969 to create a Rugby experience for our student-athletes that's the best in the world. That experience can be a highly competitive, daily training environment. We have that. That experience can be a participation-based experience. We have that too. The little secret of College Rugby in 2020 is this- most programs have one team, and if they have two, they don't get them matches. We have two, sometimes three. The only other schools in the country doing this on a consistent basis are Saint Mary's and Navy. In the Fall for our non-Sevens boys, this means getting out there for preseason matches, culminating in a Freshmen showcase match against a first side. This year's trip was to Austin to take on Texas, and you'll see the dividends from this trip in future. Winning's sweet, but using real games to create real experiences allows you to really develop talent.
WHO STOOD OUT?
Lots of players stood out, with our Sevens, Fifteens, strength & conditioning, and classroom work filling the Fall.
Sevens- Ben Scoular- The captain, and the candy man. That sounds weird, let me explain. He brings British candy that his mum ships him but also brings his leadership and his growing ability to take over a game. Just can't say enough about how much he's grown as a player and a person.
Sevens (Freshmen)- Tie between Brendon Paulsen and Will McCausland. They're roommates, and you can see how they push each other in a good way, and our upperclassmen have really embraced them. They showed well in their first semester and put in massive work in the weight room as well.
Fifteens- Charlie Green- Captained the team in Austin and is an old-school, blue collar type guy that just grinds. He is a work in progress and he'll be the first to tell you that, but he continues to make strides and improve, and shows that fire that we want.
Fifteens (Freshmen)- James Rivers- the big Lock is continuing to improve each week, and was recently selected by Hong Kong to play for their Under-20s. Keep an eye on him this Spring, he's got a chance to compete right away. Some schools don't play Freshmen but for us, if you're good enough, you're old enough.
Weight Room- Tie between Gabe Coray-Dozier and Bronson Teles- Bronson continues to impress, leading the team in major categories while setting new program records in squat and bench. Gabe is right there with him, setting new records in clean and vert. These two are freaks, and I mean that in a good way.
Women's Team- Tie between Ava Kiechler and Wednesday Lewis. I know this is the Men's team's website but I wanted to give a shout-out to these two. Ava is their captain, and has been a huge help to me in learning about their program, while Wednesday a Flanker that really jumped out this preseason. They're both just Sophomores, and they're going to be major pieces of the team this season that we hope you'll go check out.
We have some major projects in 2020, some which I can talk about, and others that you'll be learning about soon. D1A has a newly signed television contract that we as a team will benefit from, with some coming news about when you can see the Wildcats on Eleven Sports. For the second straight year, we'll also sell season tickets. This group of supporters was incredible last year, and we hope to build that even bigger in 2020.
On top of this, we may or may not have an international side coming to train in Tucson with us in preparation for LA Sevens....more on that soon.
See you at Sitton Field in three weeks!