MONMOUTH, Ore. – Central Washington University has been the elite club in the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference for several years, and the Wildcats are showing no signs of allowing anyone else in the conference to boot them from the perch on which they currently stand.
Western Oregon University hosted the conference’s 2013 sevens tournament, which ended with a fourth consecutive championship victory for CWU. Being the overwhelming favorite going into the tournament, the Wildcats were more focused on improving as a club as the afternoon’s tournament rolled on than capturing their third consecutive invitation to the USA Rugby College 7s National Championship.
“It was mission accomplished in the sense that we did play our best rugby of the day in the Final,” said CWU Head Coach Tony Pacheco. “We went up against a very good University of Washington side in the semi-final and they really made us work for it. “
Washington did indeed give Central Washington its most difficult match of the day. The game was hard fought, but the Wildcats were still able to shut out their in-state rival 15-0.
“Our goal is always to win, but there are obviously things we need to work on as well,” said junior center and USA Rugby AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Tanner Barnes. “Every time we step on the field we need to get better. We try to worry about what we can fix and change. We try not to worry about our competition.”
Having played in the previous two College 7s National Championships – including an appearance in the Cup Finals in 2011 – this CWU club wants to use Saint Mary’s ‘Battle in the Bay’ sevens tournament on Treasure Island in San Francisco as an opportunity to put themselves in the best possible position to win its first National Championship.
“We’re definitely going there to win a tournament,” said Pacheco. “We don’t ever go to a tournament not to win it, and we’re certainly going to give it our all. At the same time, we’re really using this as a test to ramp up towards Nationals. By no means are we the perfect team. That’s the good thing about this ‘Battle in the Bay;’ there will be some really good sides who are really going to test us. So we’ll get to learn a lot about ourselves.”
A healthy Andrew Nelson at halfback gives CWU another impressive playmaker alongside Barnes. In fact, it is the team’s talent top to bottom that might make the 2013-14 Wildcats their most dangerous team yet. However, Barnes attributes the program’s continued growth and accomplishments to the club’s coaching staff.
“Our program is getting stronger and stronger every year,” said the All-American. “Our coaches Tony and Bob [Ford] put in a lot of work on and off the field and it allows us to just worry about playing. That’s why we succeed here – because of what our coaches and staff do for us.”