By Ronan Nelson
Westwood, CA - After a solid debut performance at the UCLA 7′s last weekend, the UCLA Bruins 7′s Rugby Team travels to San Luis Obispo this Saturday to partake in the annual West Coast 7′s tournament, the first qualifying tournament for next year’s USAR Collegiate 7′s Championship. The West Coast 7′s has become one of the premier 7′s events in the region, and, despite a challenging opening stage group, UCLA has the potential to make a deep run into the tournament playoffs.
In order to compete well at the tournament, UCLA will hope to build upon their performances last weekend, which at times were hindered by communication errors. When asked about his team’s main “keys to success” to compete well at the West Coast 7′s, Bruins head coach Scott Stewart reiterated his belief in the power of communication. “It will come down to us communicating with each other out there. The skills, fitness and tactics are the bare minimum we must produce simply just to compete, but good talk will be the difference between winning it all or simply not.”
The tournament will feature four groups of three teams, with the #3 UCLA scheduled to play against #11 UCSB at 11:20 AM and #6 SDSU at 12:40 PM in pool #3. UCLA handled UCSB last weekend in Westwood and will attempt to show a week’s worth of improvement and get off to a quick start where sometime the Bruins have struggled. The match-up with San Diego State will be a challenge for UCLA who defeated the Aztec 2 of 3 times last season, the only loss recorded in this very tournament last Fall. The winner will likely win the pool and advance towards the Cup semi-finals to be played later in the day.
Each group winner will earn a berth into the Cup semi-finals, leaving UCLA little room for error over the course of the entire day if they are to have a chance at the Cup title. The only two teams ranked ahead of UCLA in the tournament are #2 St. Mary’s, last year’s DI National Champion, and #1 Cal, last year’s West Coast 7′s champion; two sides the Bruins might have to face in the playoff rounds.
The importance of Saturday’s tournament and the step-up in competition level has not been lost on the Bruins in mid-week training. According to Stewart, the “Guys are competing for jobs which makes it much more intense out here as there are now only two events remaining where players can earn a spot in the final squad for the Fall.”
Tomorrow’s competition will certainly not be easy, but the attitude of this UCLA Bruins team and the strengths they have shown thus far put them in good standing for a successful day at the office. Make sure to follow the action through the UCLA Rugby Facebook page, Twitter Feed (@UCLA_RUGBY), and the UCLA Rugby Channel on You Tube!