Lopes face Utah, NDC, Minnesota Friday
By Mack Drake/GCU Staff
It’s been a few weeks since the Grand Canyon University Men’s Rugby team played its last competitive game of the 15s season.
The Lopes are itching to take the field again, and they’ll get their chance this weekend at the 2019 Division 1A College Rugby National 7s Tournament at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson.
A USA Rugby sanctioned event, the D1A Rugby National 7s tournament 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.
GCU, which played its last game a little over a month ago, finished fourth at this tournament last year in Denver, Colorado, the program’s best finish ever in the event.
“Things are looking really good,” Lopes’ Head Coach Cam Wyper said. “We’re used to playing in a playoff environment, and we’ve been able to have some success at this tournament. We’re building well into the tournament, and our guys are really looking forward to getting out there and competing.”
With the tournament far closer to home this year, GCU was put in Pool C alongside the University of Utah, Notre Dame College in Ohio, and the University of Minnesota. Also earning a qualification bid into the D1A bracket and competing for the title are the University of Southern California (USC), Indiana University, American International College (AIC), Northeastern University, Ohio State University, the University of Arkansas, Davenport University (from Michigan), California Polytechnic State University, Central Washington University, the hosts from the University of Arizona, and powerhouse Lindenwood University in Missouri, a school Wyper led to a 15s national championship in 2015.
The Lopes will play three times on Friday in the tournament’s first day of action. GCU’s first opponent will be Utah at 11:40 am before taking on Minnesota (2 pm) and Notre Dame (4 pm) to round out pool play. Quarterfinal, semifinal and finals action will take place on Saturday.
With so many quality teams in the mix, Wyper knows his squad must get off to a fast start. A successful tournament will require a winning result against Utah.
“There are a lot of good teams in this tournament,” Wyper said. “For us, it really is about taking it one day at a time and one game at a time. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We’ve got Utah first, and it will be important to bring our best against them because they have a great program. In 7s play, you have to get off to a good start.”
GCU went 6-4 this year during the 15s regular season and were ranked No. 15 in the final D1A College Rugby Top 20 Poll of the 2018-19 season. Although the 15s season was a success, Wyper isn’t worried about his team transitioning to the 7s game. In fact, the Lopes might be better suited for 7s competition.
“There’s definitely a big difference,” Wyper said. “I almost look at them as two completely different games. With 15s, it’s a very physical game with big collisions. With 7s, it’s a much faster game and there’s more space to work with. It can be a hard adjustment for some players, but I think we’re actually built for this style of play.”
Interested in joining GCU Men’s Rugby? Contact the coach to learn more!