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Arizona captured the West Coast 7s this weekend. It was the Wildcats first run out of the season and they looked like they have built on the successful Penn Mutual CRC campaign in 2016.
The Wildcats return all but two players to this year’s squad. They lost captain Cesar Davila to graduation and Tyler Sousley, who elected to transfer back to his native Indiana.
Arizona was slow to find it’s footing early on day one, narrowly beating San Diego State. The Wildcats were the benefit of a forfeit win before playing St. Mary’s in a slugfest that resulted in a 5-0 win.
In the quarterfinals, Arizona edged Western Washington 17-0 before beating the surprise of the tournament, UC-Davis, in the semifinals. The DI-AA national champions bested a freshman-sophomore Cal side to get to the semis before being upended by the Wildcats 14-5.
Arizona faced off with St. Mary’s in the final and got off to a fast start getting a pair of tries from Ryan Hudson to take a 14-0 lead.
“We beat them on day one but we knew they would come out tougher and better and they looked strong in their semifinal against ASU,” said Arizona coach Sean Duffy. “We knew it would be tough but we felt we didn’t play great in that first St. Mary’s game. So we had some things that we did that we didn’t do in game one tactically.”
Despite the rough start and two yellow cards, St. Mary’s struck back to tie the game. In the final minute, it looked as if St. Mary’s would stall the game to get its 2nd yellow card back on the field, but it elected to take a tap after a penalty. Arizona, however, turned the Gaels over at the breakdown and spun the ball wide. Kyle Rogers got close to the line and Ben Joseph dove over for the game winner.
“It was one of the wilder finishes that I have had as a 7s coach for sure,” Duffy said of the game.’’
It was an impressive showing for the Wildcats in their first tournament. Most of the field had already played a tournament or two but the Wildcats are showing early that their continuity is a good thing.
“We are thrilled at the validation for the work that the guys are putting in. For us, we are really stressing our defensive structure and doing things defensively that we didn’t do last year. We can do more at advanced level because so many are returning from last year,” Duffy said of the outing.