Two weeks after coming away as champions at Cal Poly, Cal will once again compete against some of the West Coast’s best in San Francisco this weekend. This tournament will not only be a chance to continue the momentum gained in San Luis Obisbo at the start of the month, but also an opportunity to take on Treasure Island for the first time since 2019.
Once again, the Bears will be bringing two teams: Team Cal and Team Bears. This time around, though, the tournament field of sixteen squads is a departure from the set of teams from Cal Poly. Familiars like UCSC, USC, UCLA and Cal Poly will be joined by out-of-state programs such as Utah, Nevada, Grand Canyon and Arizona. Taking a page out of Cal’s book is UC Davis, which will also be fielding two teams this weekend.
In pool A, the Bears are slated to kick off the tournament against Davis. And through Saturday, this half of Cal rugby will be competing for first seed against the likes of UCSB and Utah, its first matchup with the Utes this season.
Pool C brings to Cal matchups against Davis’ second team as well as a familiar Sac State and the Toreros of USD. Other notable pool games feature a clash between crosstown rivals USC and UCLA in Pool D and GCU and Arizona to break open its own sevens seasons in Pool B.
Though the Bears may be favorites to cross the bay and claim a championship, there remains a long road to victory for any team participating this weekend. In 2018 and 2019, UCLA surprised many by locking up the tournament title for two consecutive years. And, in a young sevens season, chaos may very well still take hold in San Francisco.
For the Bears to return to the promised land this weekend, there are many things that still have to happen. Cal head coach Jack Clark, though more than pleased with the way his teams performed at San Luis Obispo, still noted that there is room for improvement.
“The defense overall could have been better, we played well in patches,” said Clark of his Bears. Also noting, “our kickoffs were not that good. We conceded too much possession.”
Clark also noted that his players were “very intentional and focused” in their games at Cal Poly, a sign that the issue of Xs and Os may already have been fixed in training following the tournament.
Development has been a big point of focus for Cal this sevens season: The Bears had over two dozen players involved in the action two weeks ago.
Clark noted that entering two teams into sevens tournaments consistently is a rarity, and that any team, including the Bears, tends to get “vulnerable” once they play beyond its best players. But Clark’s approach has been less concerned with the wins and losses, and more with the development of players.
“We spend a lot of time in training, and they have an equal opportunity to gain experience both on the practice field and on the game,” Clark said.
This strategy continues to pay off for the blue and gold, which suffered only one loss in the Cal Poly tournament, thanks in part to its strong core of upperclassmen.
Seniors Max Schumacher, a “cool customer” according to Clark, and the “dynamic” Alex Aguero are sure to continue to contribute to the Bears this weekend at Treasure Island. And in the second outing for these new Cal squads, expect more experience to bode well for all the Bears making the trek across the Bay Bridge.
Catch Cal this weekend at Treasure Island in San Francisco starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, or on livestream at YurView California.