With two tournaments in the bag, the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference 7s season comes down to a showdown in the Emerald City.
The open invitationals in Corvallis, Ore. Pullman, Wash. were dominated by Central Washington, but also showed that a few other teams are competitive, as well.
Central Washington looks to be the clear favorite for a 7s title after their two dominating performances at both tournaments. Led by 7s All-American coach Tony Pacheco, the Wildcats have a roster that would make any team quiver: All-American Patrick Blair, U20 Eagles Tanner Barnes and Aladdin Schirmer, speedster Shelby Williams, and Bowling Green transfer Max Narewski.
And though the Palouse Open was a bit of scare for many Wildcats as both coach Pacheco and Narewski were given red cards, they are free to participate this weekend.
“Everything has been taken care of, it’s a non issue,” Pacheco said.
Standing in the way of Central’s birth to nationals are the Western Washington Vikings, Eastern Washington Eagles and Oregon State Beavers. The Eagles came in fourth at the Palouse Open and are looking for a big day from Eric Populus who has been consistent with his power and speed.
The Beavers missed the Palouse Open, but will look to have a strong showing this time around. Coach Anthony Lally says his team is still adapting to the big emphasis on sevens on the collegiate level, but look to improve on their performance from last year.
“With the local invitationals, and the increased emphasis on the 7s game for colleges, all the teams have improved their preparation,” Lally told RUGBYMag.com. “Sevens is a different game and still quite new to us, but we certainly aspire to improve and be relevant to championship tournaments.”
Lally added he is expecting the entire team to improve over a disappointing 2011 showing.
“We are looking for the whole team to improve and contribute to the game plan which has been a learning curve for us all, coaches included,” he said. “Creating space for teammates in attack and holding your channel and cover lines, especially in the mid-field. Clancy Smith, Pono Haitsuka and Robert Kennedy have all made gains in the limited showings so far this season, we are looking for a big tournament from them to lead the group.”
For Western, there’s only one mission, beat Central Washington. The surprise of last year’s tournament, the Vikings have continually battled the Wildcats for sevens supremacy as their most recent matchup came in the Palouse final which saw CWU take the title 29-12.
Nonetheless, Western has proved CWU’s closest competitor with a solid side featuring veterans Gavri Grossman, Patrick Phelps, and Giovanni Trujillo to complement some new HS recruits from both sides of the US-Canadian border and an accomplished coaching staff led by Adams Roberts and Paul Horne. They seem to be the front-runners to upset the Wildcats.
Also on the radar, the Washington Huskies led by head coach Kevin Swiryn and Captain Justin Santos. The Huskies haven’t been overly impressive this year, finishing sixth at the Palouse Open, but with a sort of home-field advantage with the tournament location and a national championship trip on the line, the Huskies should turn some heads.
Tournament will be held Saturday at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium and will feature 12 teams distributed throughout four pools.
|2012 NCRC 7s