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Last season was a decent one for the former national championship team, but not a great one.

The club was involved in a number of tense, tight games in the very competitive SCRFU, winning their opener 37-34 over OMBAC, but also losing to OMBAC later in the season and losing a close one to Las Vegas, a team they also tied.

So a 5-4-1 season could have been 8-2 with a little more luck. And this season they think they have the talent to make that happen.

The SoCal DI league has increased to seven teams, with the addition of the San Diego Old Aztecs, giving teams 12 tough games. Director of Rugby Doug Bratcher loves that challenge.

“We get to play 12 regular season games, and the top four survivors are going to be well prepared to compete the next level.”

Then again, Santa Monica looked nicely prepared last year and were thrashed in the Round of 16 by Glendale.

The central core of the Santa Monica team is back for another go. Ken Aseme returns at No. 8 and will captain the side this season.

Alistair Ross is a spark at fullback, while Brian O'Shea returns at flyhalf to give the Dolphins plenty of experience at some key skill positions.

Outside center Kelly Serfoss comes back for his seventh season with the team.

But Santa Monica has needed to recruit, as well. Prop Ross Silverman, long with the Santa Barbara club and a front-rower often mentioned as a national team prospect, has moved to Santa Monica. Silverman is a big addition up front for the Dolphins. He has been around a while, but is still young for a prop and looking for higher honors. He is a former attendee at the IRANZ Academy and is expected to play for the USA Maccabiah team this year at the 2013 Maccabiah Games.

From further afield, Notre Dame captain and scrumhalf Andrew O’Connor has impressed the coaches with his play early on. O’Connor’s father, Eddie, is a Santa Monica Rugby Club Hall of Famer. The younger O’Connor spent a year at Trinity in Ireland getting a graduate degree, and at 23 he has ten years of rugby under his belt, and his maturity and decision-making are impressive.

Also joining from the college ranks is former UCLA flanker Steven Yoshida, one of four former Bruins joining the club. With former Santa Monica player Dominic Riebli now retired and assisting Scott Stewart at UCLA, the Bruin-Dolphin relationship looks to grow.

So bolstered by the valuable addition of the highly-regarded Silverman, and with some good young athletes, Santa Monica looks poised to be much better.

“The coaching staff all agree that we needed to have greater depth across the board in order to play longer into the spring in 2013,” Bratcher told “It's not just about having bodies to create that depth, but actually have players who can compete at the Division I level. Our goal is to build a squad of about 30-35 first-team players. Last season we had about 25, and when we got to the end of the season and got a little banged up we weren't able to compete at the level that we expected.”

2011-2012 League Record: 5-4-1 (pf 308  pa 290)
Round of 32 36-24 over Utah Brothers
Round of 16 lost 50-19 to Glendale
Consolation: Lost 31-29 to OMBAC