By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
Coming off its best finish ever at the USA Rugby College 7s National Championships last year, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Rugby team entered the same event last weekend with the confidence to win it all.
Although GCU couldn’t quite top itsfourth-place finish from a year ago, the Lopes took seventh behind a strong pool play performance at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson.
“Our starters really excelled,” said GCU Head Coach Cam Wyper. “Our guys were really well-conditioned, and we got off to a great start in the tournament. The defense was solid. We just didn’t quite have the depth we needed to keep it going.”
The Lopes began the tournament on a perfect note, downing the University of Utah (33-12) and the University of Minnesota (29-12) to race out to a 2-0 start in Pool C. GCU wrapped up pool play on Friday with a 32-10 loss at the hands of Notre Dame College of Ohio.
Heading into Saturday’s play, the Lopes were focused on continuing the momentum and making a deep push into the tournament. But losses to powerhouses Central Washington University (26-5) and Ohio State University (31-10) ended GCU’s weekend.
“The lack of depth hurt us as the tournament continued,” Wyper said. “We had some guys go down towards the end of our second game and we couldn’t quite recover from it. By the end of the tournament, we had 10 guys healthy.”
A USA Rugby sanctioned event, the Division IA College 7s National Championships brings some of the best college rugby teams in the nation together for a high-octane, two-day tournament to decide the best 7s squad in the country.
Lindenwood University of Missouri was crowned the tournament champion for the third year in a row. Lindenwood, a team Wyper led to a national title in 2015, captured its three-peat with a dominant 36-0 victory over American International College (AIC) in the title game. Davenport University of Michigan took third place.
The 15-team DIA bracket featured some high-profile programs. Besides Lindenwood and Ohio State, the tournament included the likes of the University of Southern California (USC), Indiana University and the University of Minnesota.
“This is a great tournament with great players,” Wyper said. “We’re still a very young team, so this was great experience for our guys going forward. It wasn’t the result we were going for, but the guys fought hard and gave it everything they had.”
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