Pool B features a team making its first trip to Nationals, a former champion hoping to get back in the final, a blue blood 15s program seeking its first 7s championship and a heavy underdog. Rosters can be found at the bottom of the article.
San Francisco Golden Gate is the blue blood. SFGG have won plenty of 15s championships, and they’ve hosted the last five Club 7s National Championship tournaments, but they’ve never hoisted the top 7s trophy. They have a couple of former 7s Eagles in Volney Rouse and Mile Pulu, as well as former 15s Eagle Mose Timoteo, on the squad, but the biggest addition this season are the young guys.
Five recent college grads or current college players give SFGG a level of depth, speed and youth they’ve lacked in the past. Neil and Danny Barrett of Cal are physical players, and Mike Haley and Tim Maupin are hard-charging ball carriers from St. Mary’s. Another Gael and a 7s All American, Garrett Brewer, provides really quality cover for the veteran halfbacks.
The team making its first trip to Nationals is three-year-old 1823. The program has had lofty expectations each season, but fallen just short of reaching club 7s’ final weekend.
“It’s huge reward for all the work the boys have put in, because the boys have been extremely committed, especially guys like Luke Markovich, Ryan Cochran, Chad Cochran, Pete Friedman, who have all been part of the program for three years,” said 1823 founder and coach Paul Holmes. “We feel we’ve underachieved, but it’s good to finally get there.”
And the Midwest runners-up aren’t going to be happy with just filling out the numbers.
“What we’re trying to preach is we’re not happy with just going to Nationals. We feel we should have also been there last year, and we feel we’re one of the top teams in there this year,” said captain Mike Ziegler.
“Our style of play is very aggressive, it’s based on attack. And, to be honest, I don’t feel a lot of the West Coast teams are going to be able to handle our pattern as far as how aggressive it is on defense. We’re not going to stop attacking. I really think we’re going to succeed.”
Ziegler and fellow Bowling Green Falcon Dominic Mauer provide a lot of that aggression and physicality in 1823’s forward pack, which hopes to impose its will on opponents this weekend.
“The thing is even though we are very big, we’re also very mobile and we’re conditioned,” said Ziegler. “It’s just not going to be a five- or seven-minute thing. We’re coming for the whole entire game, and we have subs off the bench that can also do the same.”
Old Blue is the only team in this pool that has won a 7s National Championship before (2005 and 1993). They reached the semifinals before being bounced out last year, but they bring back just a handful of guys from that team. Still, they overcame a slow start to the summer to win the Northeast.
“For a while we were coming in second, coming in second. We did a pretty good job in New Haven coming in first, and I think Middlesex was our best complete effort, given the team we had,” said Old Blue’s Derek Lipscomb.
“Injuries kind of set us out early and we had to keep switching guys in and moving guys out, but the best part is the guys that have been put in that position to start have always been able to come up and do really well. It’s good to have such depth at so many different positions, but I think this upcoming Nationals should be a good test. I think that we’ve been kind of fine tuning things here and there on defense with restarts and such, but it should all start to come together.”
The underdog team is New Orleans. Yes, they won the famous Cape Fear tournament, but the competition at Cape Fear isn’t what it used to be, and in the South Qualifier, NOLA finished second to Atlanta Old White (report originally said NOLA lost to AOW twice. That is incorrect. New Orleans beat AOW in round-robin play and lost in the final). The South does not run a series of tournaments like most every other territory, and no team from the South has made the Cup round in years. So history, along with some pretty good teams, stand uphill from New Orleans this weekend.
Video of SFGG edging Olympic Club in the Pacific Coast semis.