from l to r: Jon Kaimmer (on the ground), Louie Henson, Nick Bonovich, and Ryan Glendenning in the match against UC – Santa Barbara
There were several images that will stick in my mind from last weekend’s “Battle In The Bay” 7’s Tournament held on Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay.
First of all, the tournament, put on by St. Mary’s College, was an incredible event and the St. Mary’s coaches, staff, and players are to be congratulated for the amazing job they did in putting this thing together and seeing that it all ran smoothly and came off without a hitch.
Second, when you looked at the list of the sixteen teams attending and you couldn’t help but be impressed with the talent assembled. The no. 1 ranked 7’s team in the country, the UCLA Bruins, were there. As was the no. 2 ranked team, the California Golden Bears, the no. 5 ranked team, Central Washington, and the no.7 ranked team, St. Mary’s. There were four pools and each of these teams were the no. 1 seeds in each of these pools. The no. 2 seeds in each of the pools were no slouches either. We had Cal Poly – San Luis Obisbo, another PAC 12 power in Arizona State, San Diego State, and your Western Washington University Vikings. And amongst the remaining eight teams were teams like UC – Santa Barbara, Stanford, Santa Clara University, UC – Davis, and the University of San Diego.
Third, this was a two day tournament and the first day was a war… Teams were positioning to get out of pool play with either a 1st or 2nd seed so that they could advance to the top tier “Cup” match-ups on Sunday, day 2. Miss on either of the top two spots in the pools and you were playing in the consolation rounds.
In addition, each team originally was going to only be allowed to bring twelve players, then it changed to fifteen players, and finally, the tournament committee relented to some pressure and let each team bring as many players as they wanted. Each team could still only use up to twelve players in each match but the ‘open’ roster gave some teams much greater flexibility in case of injury. Cal showed up with 40 players and quite a few other teams had 20 or more players. Western brought twelve players…
In pools A, B, and D things went pretty much according to form, Cal was the one seed from A with San Diego State being the second seed. St. Marys was the number one seed in pool B and WWU was the 2nd seed. In pool D, Central Washington was the one seed and Arizona State was the second seed.
In pool C everything was turned upside down. The one seed going in, UCLA, couldn’t hold serve and three teams ended up with identical 2-1 records. UCLA, Cal Poly, and Santa Clara had 2-1 records and the seeds would be determined by the tie breaker and bonus point system the tournament committee had in place…and when the smoke had cleared, Santa Clara came out on top, Cal Poly was second, and amazingly, the no. 1 ranked team in the country, UCLA, ended up third.
In UCLA’s defense, as well as Cal’s and Arizona State’s, they are participating in this coming weekends PAC-12 Championships and each of them left most of their top 12 players at home so those players would be fit for the PAC-12 tourney.
So Sunday set-up like this, it would be: Central vs San Diego State, WWU vs Santa Clara, Cal vs Arizona State, and St. Mary’s vs Cal Poly. And when the dust settled on these matches the semi finals would pit Central against Western and Cal would play St. Mary’s.
At the end of Saturday’s action it didn’t look like Western would be able to field a full team. Several players were really banged up but to their credit, Mrs. Romano’s cooking, and a good night’s rest, they were able to come out and come out strong they did against Santa Clara. The Vikings whipped Santa Clara like a rented mule and won going away, 31-0.
The Cal vs St Mary’s came didn’t go to form, St. Mary’s won the match and while it wasn’t easy for them, St. Mary’s were ahead the whole way. That was not the case in the Central vs WWU match. Western jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on Ollie Dougtery’s long try but it didn’t take Central long to come back and hang a couple more scores on the Vikings. Central would win 32-7.
The final pitted St. Mary’s against Central and St Mary’s had control of the match from the ‘get go’, and while Central could never seem to find their rhythm, the Wildcats did come back and make the score respectable…something like 41- 25.
There were a three of other images that really stuck in my mind. One, the Romano family (their son Jake is one of the pillars of Western’s team) hosted all twelve players at their home in Santa Rosa which is 50 some miles up the road from Treasure Island. By all accounts, the house was not to be believed (most of it built by Jake and his Dad) and the hospitality surpassed even the house. To a man, each of the kids raved about what a great time they had with the Romano’s. The Romano’s have been great supporters of the program for the last couple of years and Ellen Romano sent along the following note to us after the tournament:
Two, the Bonovich family, from Dixon, CA,, Greg and Kristine, provided all the food, water, and Gatorade for the players both days. The spread was incredible, cold cuts, fruit, healthy snacks, cookies, it was all there. The Bonovich’s son Nick is a freshman this year and is going to be a key player for Western in the years to come. They parked their motorhome at the edge of the bay on Treasure Island and in the shadow of the spectacular new Bay Bridge. Like the Romano’s, we can’t thank them enough for their generous support.Third, and finally, the twelve guys we took down there were amazing. They have come so far this season… At dinner Saturday night with one of the St. Mary’s coaches, we counted the number of players we lost from last year’s National Tournament team…the number is eight. Eight players we don’t have this year, most seniors, and you look at the way our kids responded. They got better every weekend and playing against competition like that at the “Battle In The Bay” all that hard work and effort finally paid off. We have a team of mostly freshmen and sophomores who are only going to get better. And if the activity around out tent this past weekend is any indication, we’ll soon see several young players from the bay area headed to Western. Next year we could see as many as eight new students from the bay area coming to Western for their college education and to play rugby. The flow of coaches and prospective high-school players was constant both days and visiting with them kept Coaches Adam Roberts and Paul Horne busy most of the weekend.
Thanks to everyone for your support this fall season and we would remind you all that schedule has changed a little, we won’t be playing any matches this weekend. We will have a scrimmage this Saturday from 12-2 and then next weekend we’ll be back on the field playing 15’s and getting ready for the first NCRC 15’s match of the season against the UW, Saturday, November 23rd, in Seattle.
Cheers, and thanks again for all your support this fall…and remember this year’s motto…”We’re just getting started!.”