WILDCATS SHOW GROWTH IN SEVENS TUNE UP
Robert Figley was one of the standout contributors in the Wildcats' first Sevens touranment of the year. (Photo credits: Brandon Nowak
Oct 12- Arizona hit the road for the first of two Sevens events this preseason, making the trek to San Luis Obispo for the West Coast Sevens this past weekend. While the program was one of the few in the country to be able to play a shortened Fifteens season last year, Sevens across the country has been scarce, leaving the Wildcats with a mix of vastly experienced players and new faces. If Saturday is any indication, the future- both short and long term- is in great hands.
Arizona opened the day against UC-Santa Barbara, their first matchup with the Gauchos in recent history. One of the new faces that instantly made his impact felt was Antonio Gonzalez, with the speedster from Spain touching down in the third minute and Jacob Broselle following up soon after to give the Wildcats an early 12-0 lead. A kick error to open the second half set the Wildcats up for a penalty and George O'Brien took advantage, notching his first try and starting a second half run that saw tries from Captain Jon Rogers and Mattox King and a 27-0 victory in the opener.
Game two pitted Arizona against Cal in a rare pool play matchup as the teams have met most often in the knockout stages. The Wildcats started well, with Matthew Start touching down and Robert Figley converting to make it 7-0 in the third minute. The early stages of the preseason and a mixed lineup was one that the Bears took advantage of however, with Cal bouncing back to make it 7-7 at half. Arizona mistakes and Cal capitalization were the story of the second half, with the Bears scoring twice to hand the Wildcats a 19-7 loss and drop them to 1-1.
Looking to bounce back, Arizona moved to game three against Fresno State, another new opponent for the squad. The Wildcats bounced back quickly from their first loss led by fast-rising prospect George O'Brien. The Scrumhalf from North Carolina notched two tries while leading the defense at sweeper, and that defense created opportunities for scores from Mattox King and Eli Palmer to give the Cats a 28-12 victory. The win secured a second place finish in Pool B and a spot in the Cup Semifinals.
Arizona took on Cal Gold in game four, and Senior Jack McCrossin made his presence felt early in the semifinal, scoring in the fourth minute to give Arizona a 7-0 lead. Two late tries by the Bears made it 12-7 Cal going in to the break and set the stage for a tense second half. An early Cal score was responded to by a Jacob Broselle try, and some tough defense turned over Cal to give the Wildcats the ball down a score as time expired. With momentum and possession, Arizona had an opportunity but was unable to convert, falling to Cal 19-12.
In their final match of the day, Arizona took on UCLA in the battle for third place. While a preseason event, the goal is to always compete and the squad showed fight, responding to an early 19-0 hole to battle back. Seniors Robert Figley and Lucas Agasse led the way, combining for three tries to tie it at 19 with no time left. Some tight defense and workrate could only last so long however, as a UCLA score at the death secured the loss and left the Wildcats with a fourth place finish on the day.
While a disappointing end, Director of Rugby Sean Duffy pointed to the invaluable experience and the way the team carried themselves as building blocks. "Due to the pandemic we have two class years of guys with no college sevens experience, so this weekend was hugely helpful in their development. Particularly pleased with guys stepping up, playing to the system, backing themselves, and trusting their teammates. Jon Rogers was exceptional in his leadership, taking the big picture view and knowing how this will help us next month at PAC-12 Championships. I'm also pleased with how the team carried themselves. No dramas, always respectful, shaking hands with opponents, taking coaching. At the same time, we have work to do to reach our goals and it's time to put our heads down and get back to the lab. We'll get there."
Arizona will close their Sevens preseason with the PAC-12 Championships November 6-7 in Berkeley, California live on PAC-12 Network. More details including fan attendance policies coming soon.
Game 1 vs UCSB- W 27-0
Tries: Gonzalez, Broselle, O'Brien, Rogers, King
Conversions: Rogers 1/4, O'Brien 0/1
Game 2 vs Cal Blue- L 19-7
Conversions: Figley 1/1
Game 3 vs Fresno State- W 28-12
Tries: O'Brien (2), King, Palmer
Conversions: Figley 3/3, Agasse 1/1
Cup Semifinal vs Cal Gold- L 19-12
Tries: McCrossin, Broselle
Conversions: Agasse 1/2
Third Place vs UCLA- L 26-19
Tries: Agasse (2), Figley
Conversions: Agasse 2/3
Roster at West Coast Sevens
2021 Schedule Link