A California roster represented by a majority of freshmen and sophomores heads to Los Angeles this weekend for the Nov. 3-4 PAC Sevens Rugby Tournament at UCLA. The Golden Bears begin Saturday with matches against USC at 9 a.m., Oregon State at 11:20 a.m. and Arizona State at 1:40 p.m. (all times PT).
After quarterfinal matches end day one, Sunday action culminates with the tournament final at 2 p.m. on the Bruins' North Athletic Field.
Currently ranked No. 3 nationally at 17-2 (.894), the Bears have won two tournaments and advanced to the semifinals of the third event they've contested so far in the fall 2012. They also carry a seven-match winning streak into the PAC Sevens.
Amidst their building success as a 7s program, which prepares student-athletes for the same version of rugby returning to the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Bears have been forced to turn to an increasingly young and inexperienced makeup of players as they embark for the PAC Sevens. A substantial number of accomplished veterans remain out for the season and All-American Brendan Daly, whom Cal hoped to see return to action by now, is not yet ready. Surging winger Josh Tucker has also been added to the unavailable list following an October training injury.
"To be honest, I'm disappointed in the number of injuries we've taken but I'm proud of the resilience the team has shown," said head coach Jack Clark.
Those voids have opened the door to further experience for five freshmen: Patrick Barrientes, Charles Guiraud, Anthony Salaber, Cameron Todd and Russell Webb. All have played significant minutes already this year and Webb was named California Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week on Oct. 15, after he became the Bears' all-time conversions leader following the Stanford 7s, where his poise proved key to Cal's success.
The four sophomores on the weekend travel roster continue to show improvement. Juniors Jake Anderson, a 7s All-American, and Paul Bosco comprise perhaps the most consistent class year on the squad. One of the four seniors selected, Jared Braun, will be seeing his first action of the year, led by fellow senior and captain Seamus Kelly.
"Seamus is a really good captain for this team because he is so highly competitive," coach Clark said. "Slowly but surely, his teammates are likewise developing a competitive mindset."
Cal should encounter a similarly inexperienced team in its first tilt on Saturday against USC, which features only two seniors on its squad. The Bears continue their first day in L.A. against Oregon State, which has built a winning record entering the weekend and beat Washington, 17-7, to earn 3rd place at the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference 7s. Arizona State, the Bears' third opponent, also reached the semifinals of the West Coast 7s.
Two-thirds of the field at the PAC Sevens Rugby Tournament are either ranked or on the watch list of the national Top 25. For a team-by-team preview of the event, visit Pac-12.com to read a detailed release.
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