WWU Men’s Rugby 7’s Head Coach Adam Roberts got the phone call he was waiting for last night telling him that the WWU Men’s Rugby 7’s team was going to get an ‘at-large’ invitation to the USA Rugby Collegiate 7’s National Championships.
Roberts and Director of Rugby and Head Coach Paul Horne had been nervously pacing the floor for a couple of days awaiting the outcome of the last few qualifying 7’s tournaments that carried automatic bids to the National tournament. The Ivy League tournament went to form as Dartmouth won, and the Big Ten was won by Wisconsin as expected, but the California 7’s tournament had a few surprises that had the coaches worried. Cal Poly, who was ranked 17th nationally in the latest poll, knocked off St Mary’s College from Moraga, CA in the semi’s of the California 7’s and St Mary’s had been ranked 3rd in the latest poll. Cal Poly then lost to San Diego State (8th nationally) in the finals but the results of the Cal 7’s Tourney left the selectors with quite a dilemma.
Their dilemma was, how many at-large bids can we give to the West Coast? Cal Poly, by their performance in the Cal 7’s certainly deserved a bid, and Western’s record this season merited them consideration as well. In addition, the selection committee required that any team seeking an at-large bid had to submit and application requesting that they be considered for a bid, and, from what we’ve heard there were at least 25 applications submitted. With only 13 at-large bids to give there was lots of room for worry and lots of tough decisions for the selection committee. Hence the floor pacing by Roberts and Horne.
Western had worked hard improving their 7’s team since last year’s National Collegiate 7’s Tournament. Seniors Matt Jensen and Gavri Grossman had led the Vikings into seven tournaments since then and carried a great record with them into the fall tournaments. Finishing 2nd to Central at the Palouse 7’s and again at the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference (NCRC) National Qualifying Tournament in Seattle the Vikings felt like they were in great shape for an at-large bid despite the poor showing against Central in the final of the NCRC. Western was clearly in the same league as 4th ranked Central Washington and, while there are 7’s programs making progress like the UW and Oregon State, those other programs weren’t there yet.
So the worrying is over and now it’s time to prepare for the tournament which will be held on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, on November 30th and December 1st.
Western will be in tough having to play teams like Cal, Dartmouth, Colorado State, Texas, Texas A&M, Air Force, Wisconsin, NC State, Penn State, Tennessee, and St Mary’s to name a few. But the Vikings know they belong and that they can play with any of those teams…