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Lindenwood at the LVI CRC 7s Qualifier. Evan Lappen Photo.

Day One at the 2017 Las Vegas Invitational College Rugby Championship Sevens Qualifier was filled with blowouts, close-calls, upsets, surprises, and ultimately, eight teams advancing to the Cup Quarterfinals on Friday. Seven pool winners and one wild card moved on to the Cup Quarters tomorrow with the remainder of the clubs battling it out in the lower brackets.

Lindenwood captured the #1 seed in the quarterfinals by winning Pool C with an impressive +130 point differential besting St. Bonaventure (26-0) and beating Colorado and UNLV by over 50 points each. The Lions will meet the Lynx of Lindenwood-Belleville as the #8 seed, who qualified as the wild card with a 2-1 record with sizable wins over Western Michigan (33-0) and Idaho (66-0).

Even though Lindenwood in headlong into its 15s season, the transition back to 7s has been superb. “Our chat was good, we were happy to move the ball, and we kept calm heads,” Lions head coach Josh Macy said. “Defensively, we made our tackles. We may need to be more judicious in the contact area, but a lot of promise. We have a good platform to build off of.”

As the #2 seed, Central Washington ruled Pool A running roughshod over Buffalo, Tulane, and Georgetown. The Wildcats had a +116 point differential and shut out their first two opponents before giving up five points to Georgetown. #7 Dixie State emerged from a competitive Pool D after going 2-1 with wins over Northeastern and Utah Valley by a total of five points. Wheeling Jesuit, disappointingly, went 1-2 in pool play losing to Utah Valley and Northeastern, but beat the pool winner, Dixie State, 26-19.

Defense is vital for Todd Thornley, the head coach of Central Washington.  “We’ve stayed very connected and played at the speed the opposition allows up to play at. We haven’t over-chased and allowed them to initiate the contact with us. We worked hard off the ball to get set again... We have to work harder off the ball. If we work harder off the ball and get good depth and shape, then we can run downhill. As soon as we run downhill we can play at two speeds and that’s pretty hard to defend.”

Surprise Clemson took the #3 seed after going 3-0 in Pool G. The Tigers defeated Montana State, Michigan State, and last year’s Cup Semifinalist, James Madison. The games versus MSU and JMU were 30+ point shutouts. Santa Clara won Pool E with a 2-0-1 record to take the #6 seed. After beating Lindenwood-Belleville and Idaho, the SCUTS played against Western Michigan to decide who would advance to the Cup Quarters. The match ended in a 17-17 tie sending Santa Clara to the quarters and Western Michigan to the lower bracket.

“We learned a lot from the Red Bull 7s this summer,” said Clemson head coach Steve Lynch. “We got here early and took a day to get our bearing, get acclimated and get a couple of training sessions and I think that helped us a lot. JMU was a very good team, but we were clicking on all cylinders. We were running our pattern, doing everything we wanted to do, and our fitness is better than ever. [Against Montana State,] we really brought our support to the breakdown and moved the ball wide very quickly.”

#4 New England College was 3-0 in Pool F dispatching Grand Canyon, Utah State, and Colorado State-Pueblo. The highlight of the pool was Grand Canyon’s 82-0 dismantling of Colorado State-Pueblo. The Pilgrims will face last year’s Cup Finalist, #5 Notre Dame College. The Falcons ran away with Pool B with a +56 point differential beating Colgate and Harvard by similar scores of 35-5 and 33-5, respectively. Millersville forfeited its matches after pulling out of the tournament.

“We started slow, but we stayed disciplined as a unit,” NDC head coach Luke Markovich said. “We have put the work in. We have been working hard for the last month and a half training two to three times a week with a big emphasis on fitness. We think we are ready.”

The Cup Quarterfinals begin at 9:20 am on Friday with #1 Lindenwood vs #8 Lindenwood-Belleville, 9:40am with #4 New England College vs #5 Notre Dame College, 10:00 am with #3 Clemson vs #6 Santa Clara, and 10:20 am with #2 Central Washington vs #7 Dixie State.

#2 Central Washington300+116
#5 Notre Dame College300+72
#1 Lindenwood300+130
St. Bonaventure210+9
#7 Dixie State210-2
Wheeling Jesuit120+3
Utah Valley120+7
#6 Santa Clara201+39
#8 Lindenwood-Belleville210+97
Western Michigan111+97
#4 New England College300+75
Grand Canyon210+90
Utah State120+37
Colorado State-Pueblo030-200
#3 Clemson300+95
Montana State111-15
James Madison111-34
Michigan State030-46