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Breakout Team of the Year: University of Southern California. Long the “yeah but” team of the PAC-12, as in “it would be great to have a full-on PAC-12 conference, right?” “Yeah, but USC would have a really, really tough time.” Not anymore. The Trojans have a strong coaching staff and are getting more players and more athletes involved. They made the national playoffs in DIAA, something that would have been unheard of not that long ago.

Full article here

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Rank Team
1 BYU (Utah)
2 Life (Ga.)
3 California (Calif.)
4 Central Washington (Wash.)
5 St. Mary’s (Calif.)
6 Lindenwood (Mo.)
7 Arkansas State (Ark.)
8 Indiana (Ind.)
9 Army (NY)
10 Navy (Md.)
11 Dartmouth (NH)
12 Penn State (Pa.)
13 Kutztown (Pa.)
14 Notre Dame College (Ohio)
15 AIC (Mass.)
16 UCLA (Calif.)
17 Utah (Utah)
18 UC-Davis (Calif.)
19 Arizona (Ariz.)
20 Davenport (Mich.)
21 Arkansas (Ark.)
22 Arizona State
23 LSU (La.)
24 Texas A&M (Texas)
25 Air Force (Colo.)
26 Wisconsin (Wisc.)
27 San Diego State (Calif.)
28 Cal Poly (Calif.)
29 Tennessee (Tenn.)
30 South Carolina (SC)
31 Clemson (SC)
32 Oklahoma (Okla.)
33 Ohio State (Ohio)
34 St. Bonaventure (NY)
35 Sacramento State (Calif.)
36 James Madison (Va.)
37 Delaware (Del.)
38 Iona (NY)
39 MTSU (Tenn.)
40 Cal State Long Beach (Calif.)
41 Boston College (Mass.)
42 Alabama (Ala.)
43 Bowling Green (Ohio)
44 USC (Calif.)
45 Santa Clara (Calif.)
46 Harvard (Mass.)
47 Utah State (Utah)
48 Wheeling Jesuit (WV)
49 Washington (Wash.)
50 Western Washington (Wash.)

By Adam Bushell

This past Saturday marked the end of the Trojans’ 2016 season with a loss at UC Davis in the first round of the D1AA National Championship. UC Davis are the current holders of the championship title and fielded a thrillingly competitive side to go up against USC. The Trojans showed sparks of being able to compete with last season’s best, and perhaps if the side had been at their best their fate may have been different. But it was not their day, and USC’s first visit to Nationals in recent memory was cut short. UCD outran, outplayed, and outcompeted the Trojans and the Aggies’ victory was well deserved.

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Losing a tough fight after a long season will always be disappointing; any team with competitive spirit can attest to this. But the Trojans must not lament over their losses. Instead, the past season’s strides must be put into perspective. The team turned two wins and four losses in 2015 into five wins and one loss in the 2016 regular season, going on to win in the semi-finals of the GCCIR playoffs and losing the finals to CSU Long Beach by two points in the last minute of extra time, inevitably earning a spot in the first round of Nationals. This drastic turn around in performance in the span of one year is a major victory in itself. It is the efforts of the entire club, the coaching staff, the medical staff, and the players that must be commended for their achievements this year. In December, as pre-season came to a close and the Sevens players rejoined the Fifteens in training, it became apparent the level of expectations the club had for the upcoming season. It would require focus, tenacity, and drive to achieve the goal of reaching nationals and competing with the best in the division. The Trojan’s displayed just that. The desire to perform has been at a level unseen in years, and now USC Rugby has a season to show for it.

GCCIR 

(W) USC 38-10 UC Irvine

(L) USC 17-24 CSU Long Beach

(W) USC 30-18 USD

(W) USC 31-10 CSU Fullerton

(W) USC 36-24 SBCC

(W) USC 32-31 GCU

GCCIR Playoffs 

Semi-Finals (W) USC 17-12 GCU

Finals (L) USC 36-38 CSU Long Beach

DI-AA Nationals

First Round (L) USC 12-29 UC Davis

The momentum, however, must not stop here. The hard work of key graduating players cannot go to waste. There are two components necessary in USC Rugby’s quest to compete with the best in the nation.

Firstly, the club must continue to reach for bigger and better things and maintain the drive necessary to do so. If the progress made in the span of one season can be replicated in seasons to follow, success will inevitably come. Beyond the skills learned and the strategies implemented, this season’s efforts have established a culture; a culture critical in maintaining winning values long after its current players have left the side.

Secondly, the team must receive the necessary attention from those with power and resources to have an equal opportunity as the competition at hand. As a competitive club sport in a highly renowned university, one would expect the university itself to be the foundation of such support, but as of late this has not been the case. This past month, team was forced to play a semi-final home game at a middle school thirty minutes away, despite a perfectly acceptable field on campus being vacant but that the team was barred from playing on. On top of this, the funding received bi-annually from the university is at a bare minimum relative to other competitive sides in the division. A rugby team needs equipment, field space, a coaching staff, a medical staff, transportation, and other costly components. Fundraising can only achieve so much.

I do concede that the level of competition over the past decade has not been where it has needed to be in order to earn the heightened attention from the university. In addition, establishing a competitive reputation for a team takes time and consistent results. However, with the performance displayed this past year, the club’s position within the university’s recreational sport department must be revised. There must be greater representation for the club to achieve their goals and bureaucratic lag cannot stand in the way of the team’s success.

The past season has established what will hopefully be a bright future for USC Rugby. Refinements for next season will begin almost immediately with the election of a new student E-Board this coming Thursday.

We say thank you to our graduating players:

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                         Joseph Krassenstein (Center)           Jonny So (President, Lock)                             Luis Lopez (Prop)

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                                                   Nick Banks (Vice President, Prop)                    Jeff Stratford (Prop)

We would also like to thank those who generously contributed to all our fundraising campaigns over the past year and encourage you to stay connected via our Facebook page. This season would not have been possible without you. 

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Fight On.

By Director of Rugby Dominic Riebli 

In their final game of the regular season, the USC Men’s Rugby Club traveled to Las Vegas, host city to the American leg of the IRB 7s Series, to take on a Grand Canyon University.  Although they had already secured a playoff spot in the Gold Coast Conference, the Trojans needed to achieve at least a double bonus point loss (score four or more tries and keep the margin of defeat to within seven points) in order to maintain their hold on a first or second place finish and a home playoff match.  USC achieved their goal and then some; coming back from 21 points down to win 32-31 on a penalty kick in the 77th minute.

 With both teams playing in a foreign environment, USC and GCU spent the first 10 minutes of the match feeling each other out and playing for field position.  Sophomore Flyhalf Adam Bushell’s penalty kick in the 13th minute gave the Trojans an early 3-0 lead.  Unfortunately for USC, that represented their only score for the half as things went from bad to worse for the home side.  The Trojans frequently found themselves on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle as Freshman Hooker Oliver Daabo received a yellow card for a swinging arm tackle and Freshman Prop Kian Azizirad got pinged several times for pulling down the scrum.  Playing a man-up, Grand Canyon’s sizable pack battered away at the gain line and made several meters after contact.  They received their just rewards with tries at the 21st and 30th minutes. 3-12 Antelopes.

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USC looked to respond 5 minutes later as the forwards set-up a driving maul from a lineout inside the attacking 22.  After the maul collapsed near the goal line, Hooker Daabo picked the ball up from the tackle area and attempted to sneak in on the short side.  However, the Xavier High School product knocked-on before touching down, thus giving GCU a scrum on their five meter line.  After a couple of possession exchanges on the Antelopes half of the field, GCU had another scrum inside their own 22.  Instead of kicking out of their own end, as they had done on the previous sequence, Flyhalf Ben Pensyl passed to Center Ryan Canino.  This caught USC off-guard and their defensive line did not attack in unison, thus creating a gap for the Antelopes to exploit.  Canino burst through the midfield and had a lot of space to run.  Trojan Sophomore Fullback Mitch Suzuki’s cover tackle proved futile as Canino offloaded to Wing Dru Pelter, who took it the rest of the way for a coast-to-coast try.  With the conversion the Antelopes increased their lead to 16 points.  USC tried to strike back before halftime but an errant pass from Junior 8-man Corbin Bennett went bouncing around the midfield.  Canino picked up the loose ball and scored in the corner.  24-3 in favor of the Antelopes.

 “We played poorly in that first half; very uninspired,” said USC Head Coach Loa Milford.  “My speech was pretty simple: I urged the boys to up the tempo in the second half as it was the only way we could get back in the game.  We had so much riding on the outcome of the game (a home playoff match) so it’s not like I needed to remind them.  I wouldn’t say that we needed to dig deep and find something extra, we just needed to play with more urgency.”

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 And play with urgency, they did.  From the opening kick, Freshman Flanker Michael Cesar took the game over and made line break after line break.  The first came from a turnover near the halfway line.  Cesar dashed through the Antelopes pack and sprinted for the posts.  GCU Center Canino attempted to make a try-saving tackle but came in too high.  Referee Holmquist awarded USC a penalty try and Canino a yellow card.  With the Bushell conversion, USC trailed 10-24.

 Minutes later, Cesar made another break from deep inside USC territory and got dragged down near the halfway line.  With GCU scrambling back to cover defensively, the Trojans needed a quick recycle to continue the momentum and potentially pull themselves back into the game.  Unfortunately, Junior Scrumhalf Guido Scassellati attempted a probing run across the midfield, which delayed his offload to his oncoming teammates.  GCU Winger Pelter stepped into the passing lane, intercepted the ball, and scored an easy try against the run of play.  Pensyl kicked the conversion and put the Antelopes back on top 31-10.

 “That play should have crushed us,” said Milford.  “We finally started getting some momentum and looked like we were going to get to within 7; then their winger swept in and gave us a dagger.  That was literally a 14 point swing.”

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Seemingly undeterred, the Trojans answered back with a converted try from Freshman Center Dmitry Veremeenko.  Cesar then tallied his second score in the 60th minute.  With the conversion, USC found themselves 7 points down with a quarter to play.  They still needed to score another try and keep Grand Canyon from scoring if they hoped to hold onto a top spot in the league.

The teams both had scores go begging in the next 10 minutes as goal line defense beat goal line offense.  Veremeenko finally dotted down in the corner at the 70 minute mark to give his team the much needed bonus point try.  Unfortunately, Bushell missed the extremely important yet extremely difficult conversion, leaving USC down 29-31 with less than 10 minutes to play.  A converted try from GCU meant a certain victory and a second place finish for the Antelopes.

Salvation came in the 77th minute as a Grand Canyon were penalized for offside on their own 22-meter line.  Keenly aware of the situation, Milford directed Bushell to kick for points.  A converted kick would give USC the lead but, more importantly, would almost definitely secure the second bonus point.  Bushell’s kick literally squeaked inside the crossbar as it glanced off the upright and through.  The penalty gave the Trojans a 32-31 lead, their first since the beginning stages of the match.  GCU had a chance to snatch the victory back but a knock-on at fulltime ended the affair.

 With the win, USC moved to first place in the Gold Coast Conference with a game in hand over undefeated Long Beach State.  Should LBSU falter in their match against Santa Barbara City College, the Trojans would win the regular season.

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“It’s quite an accomplishment to go from an ‘also ran’ last year to competing for a regular season title,” said Milford.  “We obviously still have business to tend to and have yet to play our best rugby, but I’m happy for the guys right now.  When that whistle blew, you could tell that they’d given everything they had.  It made me proud.”

USC awaits final results and standings over the next couple of weeks that will determine their playoff opponent.  The only certainty for the Trojans is that they will host a playoff match for the first time in many, many years.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]goffrugbyreport-logoCongratulations to Freshman Center Dima Veremeenko for being selected for Goff Rugby Report’s list of D1 College Gamebreakers![/vc_column_text][us_btn text=”Gamebreakers – DI College Men” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.goffrugbyreport.com%2Fnews%2Fgamebreakers-di-college-men-4||target:%20_blank”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Name: Colten Elkin

Year: Sophomore

Position: Lock

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

High School: North Central High School

Major: Astronautical Engineering

Most Memorable Moment Playing Rugby: State Championship Victory in 2014

Favorite Rugby Player: Sonny Bill Williams

Favorite Post-Game Meal: Strawberry-Banana Core Power

Favorite Pre-Game Music: Kanye West’s Yeezus

If I were an animal, I would be: A Brown Bear

Three items I would bring to a deserted island: Running Shoes, a Knife, a Hammock

Celebrity Crush: Emma Watson

By Adam Bushell 

The USC Men’s Rugby Club travel to Las Vegas this weekend to compete in their last match of the regular season against Grand Canyon University. The Trojans secured a playoff spot after a victory against Santa Barbara City College two weekends ago. A win will put the Trojans in a highly advantageous position going into their playoff run, securing second place with the possibility of moving up to first, and a home-field advantage for their first playoff game. The coaching staff has made clear that the only objective is to come away with a win. Getting the victory will be no easy feat, however. USC experienced the might of GCU at last year’s Rugby Bowl, an exhibition match held in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Trojans fell heavily. With a chip on their shoulder the USC side are looking for redemption to cap off their most successful regular season in years. Director of Rugby Dominic Riebli commented, “This is an important test for us. Can we go on the road, into a foreign environment with lots of distractions, and keep our poise and focus? It’s going to take 80 minutes of commitment to see us through.” 

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Here are some key points leading into the match:

Players to watch for…

Dima Veremeenko: Freshman Veremeenko has scored in four out of five games this season. The explosiveness of Russian Center has been difficult to for opposition back lines to handle and has proved deadly on many occasions.

Michael Cesar: The Openside Flanker has a level of experience that few can match, having played for the highly renowned rugby school in England, St. Pauls. He has the tenacity of a flanker but the ball skills of a back; a double threat to say the least.

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How the table stands…

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If the Trojans manage to come away with a victory on Saturday, second place will be secured with the possibility of a first place finish if Cal State Long Beach slip up against Santa Barbara City College. However, in the event of a loss for the Trojans, conceding three or less tries will still secure second place on the basis of point differential. If the Trojans concede four or more tries and go on to lose the match without having scored four tries themselves, GCU will go one point ahead in the standings, putting USC back to third place.

“GCU have had a very uneven season thus far. They lost to USD then came from behind to take SBCC. LBSU beat them soundly a couple weeks back but they responded last weekend by doubling up Fullerton. Reports are that they have a sizeable pack and have skill position players returning from injury. They are a good, young team.” said Riebli. 

If you are in Las Vegas this weekend, come out and support the men as they go into what will be their most important matchup yet.

Address: Field #17 at the Silver Bowl Fields, 7000 E Russell Road, Las Vegas, NV 89122.

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Name: Kian Azizirad

Year: Freshman

Position: Prop

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

High School: The Bush School

Major: Biology

Most Memorable Moment Playing Rugby: Playing against the High School All Americans in Las Vegas

Favorite Rugby Player: Alesana Tuilagi

Favorite Post-Game Meal: Burgers

Favorite Pre-Game Music: Chief Keef, Billionaire Black, Lil Jay

If I were an animal, I would be: A Polar Bear

Three items I would bring to a deserted island: A Hover Board, Wifi, and a Boat

 

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Name: Jeff Stratford

Year: Senior

Position: Prop/Lock

Hometown: Carmel, Indiana

High School: Carmel High School

Major: Theatre with a Chemistry Minor

Most Memorable Moment Playing Rugby: The time I played my first full match. Eighty minutes of non-stop rugger football style love of the game. Hooray!

Favorite Rugby Player: Nemani Nadolo

Favorite Post-Game Meal: Salmon with a vegetable medley, hummus, and tortilla chips.

Favorite Pre-Game Music: Broken Bells, HAIM, Sylvan Esso, Erik Satie, Litte Dragon, WILCO

If I were an animal, I would be: The mythical Cloud Cat. Think all white cougar with wings. They are born in the air and must learn to fly before hitting the Earth. In the air they remain all their lives. You’ve never seen one because they are all white and stick to the clouds.

Three items I would bring to a deserted island: A Kindle with every book ever, a Typewriter with infinite paper/ink, and my Cat, Puma.

Celebrity Crush: Danielle Haim