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The Final leg of the Socal 7s series heads to Orange County, Calif., this weekend. The pressure is off Belmont Shore as the perennial powerhouse took care of business in the first three tournaments, winning two and finishing runner up in the other. Shore has locked up the top overall spot in the standings and will be using this weekend to give its injured players some time to heal and the younger guys experience at an elite level.
“It is just resting guys that are carrying niggles here and there, and I am still planning on playing more high schoolers and the college guys, like the more experience they get,” said Belmont Shore coach Peter Sio. “That was the problem with Nationals last year. We went into Nationals without our top three players due to injury.”
Unlike for Belmont Shore, this tournament is make-or-break for the rest of the field. In reality, however, only two teams have a realistic shot at garnering the second spot to Nationals.
Despite two fourth-place finishes, a tournament victory in the second leg leaves OMBAC one point ahead of Santa Monica heading into the final tournament. Santa Monica has yet to win a tournament, and with two third-place finishes and a fourth-place result, the Dolphins must outlast OMBAC to head to Des Moines.
“Coming into this fourth tournament, we have made things quite difficult for ourselves by slipping in the semifinals in both the last two qualifiers,” said Santa Monica scrumhalf Charlie Purdon.
Despite the disappointing results for the Dolphins, Santa Monica still controls its own fate. “It is either us or OMBAC. It is do or die so to speak. We are excited, but I think we could have put ourselves into a better position going into the last qualifier,” added Purdon.
After three legs of the competition, OMBAC and Santa Monica both know each other fairly well. It will most likely come down to who executes better on the afternoon. For both teams it is not about winning the tournament but finishing better than one another.