2016 West Coast Sevens Champions
Arizona went 3-0 in pool play and defeated 2016 Collegiate Sevens Champion Saint Mary's twice en route to the title.
Oct 24- Arizona traveled to San Francisco this weekend for the first of two preseason tournaments, the West Coast Sevens on Treasure Island. The Wildcats found themselves in the tough Pool B featuring 2016 Collegiate Sevens Champion Saint Mary's, San Diego State, and UC-Santa Barbara.
In Game 1 against San Diego State, the Aztecs clearly took advantage of Wildcat mistakes, jumping to a 10-0 lead at half. Not deterred, the Wildcats defense locked things down and took advantage of turnover ball, with Bryce Mantell's try preceding a Garret Walker linebreak that led to a score from Ben Scoular. Two Shane Dempsey conversions proved the difference in the 14-10 Arizona victory.
WIth Game 2 being forfeited by UC-Santa Barbara, the Wildcats moved on to their next opponent, Saint Mary's College. In a tightly contested match, it was the Freshman Scoular who exploited a gap on the blindside to make it 5-0 Arizona. This try was all that the teams would muster, as Arizona played some fantastic defense against last year's champions to secure a 5-0 victory and a spot in the cup quarterfinals.
Arizona began day two with Western Washington, the runner up in Pool C. The Wildcats featured some new faces in this match, with Freshmen making up most of the lineup. Anton Grigoriou got the scoring started with a try in the 3rd minute before Jake Hedge touched down a minute later. Korbin Miller continued the push, getting a try of his own just before halftime to make it 17-0 Wildcats. The all freshmen-provided scoreline held through the second half to advance Arizona to the Cup Semifinals.
In the Cup Semifinal, Arizona took on UC-Davis who upset Cal in their quarterfinal and looked to continue their roll. Continuing his strong form, Ben Scoular touched down in the opening minute which, after a Shane Dempsey conversion, gave Arizona a 7-0 lead. Ryan Hudson and Ben Joseph gave fans a preview of the excitement to come with a Joseph try in the fifth minute set up by a Hudson linebreak, giving the Wildcats a 14-0 lead at half. Despite a UC-Davis try in the 11th minute, the Wildcats held on to advance to the Cup Final.
In a rematch from pool play, Arizona took on Saint Mary's and expected a stiff challenge in the Cup Final. The last match of the day had a number of key players, with Ryan Hudson's breakout the story of the first half. His first try in the sixth minute was followed up by a Kyle Rogers assist for his eighth minute score. The 14-0 halftime lead was answered by the Gaels in the second half, with Saint Mary's scoring tries in the 12th and 14th minutes to tie it at 14 in the closing minutes. This set the stage for a dramatic finish deep in Saint Mary's territory on the final play of the game, with Rogers quick tapping on a penalty to draw within inches of the try line. Ben Joseph picked, threw a dummy, and dove in to the try zone for the game winning- and tournament winning- score for the Wildcats. Celebration ensued with players and staff rushing the field and Arizona claiming the West Coast Sevens crown.
For the Wildcats, the weekend was years in the making as their young team is starting to grow up. "We spoke about this scenario early in the week" said Head Coach Sean Duffy "we can't be the 'young team with promise' forever. We need to continue to trust our plan, our culture, our structure, and our people and take the next step. While it's just preseason, this was definitely a positive step for the team, many of whom are still underclassmen." Duffy highlighted the play of a number of players, with Sevens debutants Scoular and Hudson making their presence felt and veterans like Kyle Rogers and Ben Joseph continuing to blossom. With just one true senior in the group, the youth movement commenced in 2014 is beginning to pay dividends and set the stage for the next tournament, the PAC Rugby Sevens Championship in Tucson at Kino Sports Complex.
Game 1 vs San Diego State- W 14-10
Tries: Mantell, Scoular
Conversions: Dempsey- 2/2
Game 2 vs UC-Santa Barbara- W (Forfeit)
Game 3 vs Saint Mary's- W 5-0
Conversions: Dempsey- 0/1
Cup Quarterfinal vs Western Washington- W 17-0
Tries: Grigoriou, Hedge, Miller
Conversions: Grigoriou- 1/3
Cup Semifinal vs UC-Davis- W 14-5
Tries: Scoular, B. Joseph
Conversions: Dempsey- 2/2
Cup Final vs Saint Mary's- W 19-14
Tries: Hudson (2), B. Joseph
Conversions: Grigoriou- 1/2, Dempsey- 1/1