Hill, Mercado, Tuaua honored for stellar freshman campaigns
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
On a team that featured 14 seniors, it was the freshmen that shined the brightest.
Three Grand Canyon University Men’s Rugby players were selected to the 2019-20 Goff Rugby Report Division 1A All-Freshman Team, which honored the top young guns in the country.
Scrumhalf Logan Hill and forwards Moses Mercado and Rayden Tuaua made the cut for the Lopes, who finished the coronavirus-shortened season with a 4-2 overall record, taking second place in the California Conference.
“If you’re good enough, you’re old enough – that’s a big part of my philosophy,” said GCU Head Coach Sean O’Leary. “For me, you may be a freshman in college, but you’re a rugby player on the rugby team. Each one of those guys performed at a high level and made a big impact right away.”
O’Leary rotated Mercado and Tuaua at forward for most of the year, relying on the dynamic duo’s energy and effort to create opportunities on the attack.
“We played them (Mercado and Tuaua) equally,” O’Leary said. “They became great friends and really gave us a great spark. In training sessions, it wasn’t uncommon to see them working together. They pushed each other to be better.”
Hill jumped on O’Leary’s radar after an impressive showing at an Eagle Impact Rugby Academy session in Glendale two years ago. The academy, which is a pipeline to the USA High School All-American team, annually invites the top prep rugby players in the nation to showcase their skills in front of college coaches.
O’Leary, who has been involved with the academy for 20 years, said Hill jumped off the page right away. Hill’s performance in the Baseline Test, which puts challengers through various grueling physical performance tests, was particularly impressive.
“He blew everybody out of the water on that test,” O’Leary reflected. “We had 350 of the top high school players in the country there, and he was just on another level. He may be the fittest 18-year-old rugby player in the country.”
With most of his team graduating this year, O’Leary is counting on his freshman trio to carry the torch over the summer.
“They earned their playing time,” O’Leary said. “We didn’t force them in there. They outplayed existing guys to earn their role. I think it shows to the other players, and anybody coming into the program, that we’re going to play the guys who perform the best and earn their spot – regardless of age or anything else.”
News and Notes
GCU’s offseason recruiting continues to go well, with several top players committing in recent weeks. The Lopes are still accepting rugby players for the 2020-21 season.
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