After winning the top spot in the Pacific South Series last year, Belmont Shore got off a to a great start in the 2016 campaign. Belmont capped off a strong opening performance at the OMBAC 7s with a 28-7 victory over Glendale.
The Pacific South will feature four tournaments with the aggregate winner and 2nd place finisher receiving an automatic qualifier berth to club 7s nationals in August.
In this rendition, nine teams participated in the tournament with the top eight making the cup rounds. The teams were divided into three pools of three teams.
Belmont Shore started off pool play with a tight win over out of region Glendale and topped the San Diego Tunas to win the group. However, since Belmont did not light it up on the score sheet, the reigning regional champs went into the playoff rounds with the 3rd seed.
Santa Monica cruised through pool play, garnering the top seed while the Orange County Ravens surprised OMBAC in the final pool to clinch 2nd overall going into the cup rounds.
The Cup rounds saw some upsets with Glendale reaching the final from the 5th position. The Raptors nipped OMBAC and edged Santa Monica en route to a date with Belmont. Shore won comfortably over Pasadena and a with a one try victory over OC, it made the finals.
Belmont Shore locked up the 22 series points by virtue of the fact that Glendale competes in the Frontier 7s series. Nevertheless, it was a good test for the Socal teams this weekend.
“The Glendale Raptors showed up so it kind of gave us another test and another look,” said Belmont Shore coach Peter Sio. “Seeing the SoCal teams every weekend, it is always good to see an outsider.”
The final featured a rematch of pool play. Belmont defeated the Raptors 14-10 in its first game of the tournament but this match proved to be much less competitive. After spending a lot of the day defending, Belmont was able to get off to a strong start in the final.
“Throughout the tournament yesterday we played close with most of the teams and that comes from having to play defense most of the games. Almost every game we played we happened to come out on the winning side but we played defense 70 percent of the time. We barely had the ball and that speaks volumes about how the boys played defense. In the finals, though we got 60 to 70 percent of the possession so that really helped. It speaks how they can be if they win ball and retain ball retention,” Sio elaborated.
Shore scored two quick tries and Glendale was unable to recover from the early deficit. In the end, the California team outlasted Glendale 28-7 to win the opening tournament.
“It was a good day for us. A good start of the season, the competition was good and that is what we need….It is always tough when you play that first tournament because you don’t know guys are bringing to the table but overall it was good,” Sio concluded.
Belmont Shore took home its second consecutive Pacific South tournament with a 26-14 victory over the Orange County Ravens at the Beach City 7s. The SoCal side has won both qualifiers to date and is in good position to advance to USA Rugby Club 7s Nationals.
Eight teams descended on San Diego with the core group of teams remaining intact. The teams were divided into two pools of four teams but each team only played two pool matches before being reseeded for the quarterfinals.
“It sucks because we don’t have the numbers of teams wanting to qualify,” Belmont Shore head coach Peter Sio said of the tournament format. “The mindset was just to get there and what they gave us just go with it.”
Like last week, the OC Ravens dominated pool play and earned the top seed in the quarterfinals. With the unique scheduling, Belmont Shore, Santa Monica and OMBAC all went undefeated in the pool stages.
All four of the undefeated teams one their respective quarterfinal matches. The matches were all much closer, however, as LA and Pasadena nearly knocked off OMBAC and Belmont Shore respectively.
The semifinals saw a pair of close contests with the Ravens edging OMBAC 21-17 and Belmont Shore defeating Santa Monica 24-5.
After a strong showing last week that resulted in a semi final finish, the OC Ravens took it one step further reaching the final. The Ravens faced a formidable opponent, however, and came up short 26-14.
“It was a very good OC Ravens, an improved team. It is the same squad that they have had for the last three years. They have grown and started to know each other well. For us to win that game it took a disciplined squad, take less penalties and committ less turnovers,” Sio added.
The Ravens got on the board first off a missed tackle and gave Belmont Shore a tough go in the final. Belmont responded, however, outscoring its opponent 26-7 for the remainder of the match.
“What I was preaching to the boys all tournament was just be patient and your opportunities will come…The boys have a week of experience in now and they saw what was coming next and they held together and pulled it off,” said Sio.
With the second cup victory, Belmont Shore is in a strong position to qualify for nationals. For Sio, the remaining two tournaments are about clinching the spot and building depth for a deep run at nationals.
“The next step is to continue to get better and the challenge for me is trying to qualify as many guys as we can…Right now the focus is getting a lot of young guys playing time and trying to qualify a bigger pool of players,” Sio concluded.
The next tournament will take place on July 16th at the Sunsplash 7s.
Belmont Shore took home the final qualifier at the Santa Monica 7s but the real prize of the weekend was the second spot to club 7s nationals. Santa Monica outlasted OMBAC in the all-important semifinals to clinch the spot in Colorado.
Six teams participated in the final qualifier with the top two advancing to the cup rounds from two groups of three. Belmont Shore earned the top spot in one pool with a pair of wins, including a 24-0 thumping of Santa Monica. The Dolphins won their other match, setting up a date with OMBAC in the semifinal.
Belmont escaped with a 21-20 victory over Los Angeles in one semifinal and was closer than the matchup between OMBAC and Santa Monica. The Dolphins played nearly an error free game, only allowing five points to OMBAC in 19-5 victory.
“Both teams came into that game needing to win to put themselves in position. It was very competitive. Santa Monica played simple nothing fancy from their side, making less mistakes than OMBAC did,” said Belmont Shore coach Peter Sio.
Santa Monica managed to claim a spot at nationals despite not winning a tournament this summer. A consistent top three finish in all the tournaments gave the Dolphins a ticket to nationals. Coming into the weekend, Santa Monica led OMBAC by three points in the series standings and managed to extend that lead with the semi final victory over the San Diego side.
“Santa Monica is a very good team. Young, young young team, there is maybe one or two older guys. They have done well this whole summer series and put themselves in position to go to nationals and make a name for themselves,” Sio said of Santa Monica.
Belmont Shore won the tournament with a 12-7 victory getting back into the win column after a disappointing third place finish last week. With this tournament victory, Belmont finished the campaign with three of four cup wins.
“We did alright, we were able to pull this one but it was really close. Obviously, there were two teams going into that last qualifier with a chance to go to nationals. They came with all guns blazing while we were trying to build for nationals. I am glad its over,” added Sio.
Belmont Shore has been a mainstay at nationals for years and had a pretty easy go of it in the SoCal Series. The competition will be much more fierce at nationals, however.
“One of the biggest challenges and what we were worried about was the competition hear versus nationals,” commented Sio. “The teams at nationals are different than they used to be because as we realized most teams are not club teams anymore. There are quite a few ODA’s out there and that has raised the bar to a whole new level of competition.”
Belmont Shore and Santa Monica are sure to be tested when they head to Colorado for the August 13-14th national championships.
SD Surfers and Tempe Represent So Cal at National 7s
by Jackie Finlan
The pools for the Women's Club 7s National Championship have been adjusted to account for the withdrawal of Hawaii, which had held the #12 seed and was placed in Pool D. The Pacific North received the vacated spot, and therefore the pools needed realignment.
POOL A is still headlined by 2015 champion American Rugby Pro Training Center (ARPTC), which won the Red River conference Saturday after a clean sweep of the region's qualifiers. The team features many familiar faces, including Eagles Ashley Perry and Jess Wooden, '15 returners, as well as a trio of New Zealand players. How has ARPTC faired outside of the Red River? The Academy side won the Cape Fear 7s 19-7 over the Scion Academy.
Also in Pool A is Atlantic North champion Old Blue, which is the summer home to many Northeast Academy players. South runner-up Charlotte won its berth to the national championship in its first season of competitive 7s, and the Midwest runner-up will be named Saturday.
POOL B is half-full. NOVA and Boston finished runner-up in the Mid-Atlantic (MAC) and Atlantic North, respectively. The former dropped a competitive championship match, 22-12, to Scion in the final MAC qualifier Saturday. Boston played an even closer game, 10-5, against Old Blue in the Atlantic North final two weekends ago. This Saturday, the Midwest and Pacific North will determine their respective champions, and they'll both head to Pool B.
POOL C is an all-West affair. Pacific South #1 San Diego Surfers comes in as the #3 seed overall and will take on the Frontier's Glendale and Red River runner-up Austin Valkyries. The Surfers won the Santa Monica 7s last weekend, while Austin continued to refine its game against ARPTC during the Red River's third and final qualifier Saturday. Glendale got the uncontested bid out of the Frontier. The fourth spot will be filled by the Pacific Northwest's third team, decided on Treasure Island this weekend.
The Pacific North's runner-up will headline POOL D and be joined by MAC champion Scion, Pacific South runner-up Tempe, and South champion Orlando, which repeated as the region's best team after a 15-12 win over Charlotte in Saturday's title match.