Harvard enjoyed a superb run to make the final but were undone by a University of San Diego team that eschewed the more free-wheeling, avoid-contact approaches to 7s. With several of their most impactful players being forwards, Los Toreros decided to play with that strength. They had players to burn you on the outside, but if you guarded against that, they'd go for the body blows, and win. San Diego had been able to beat Nebraska in the semis, a Nebraska team that had ridden defense and strong teamwork to the semis. They then thundered past Harvard 28-14, led by Michael Ramos, to win the Cup.
For the first time in program history, the University of San Diego Rugby Club won a national title and garnered national recognition at the USA Rugby 7s Collegiate Championship in Atlanta, GA. But winning the national championship was only the cherry on top of what some may consider to be one of the more prolific USD Rugby seasons to date.
A quick review of the momentous season that the University of San Diego Rugby club had; first off, the team took the Gold Coast Conference by storm, toppling its longstanding rivals in Long Beach State and finishing at the top of their league. Having won the league, USD Rugby earned a bid to appear in the USA Rugby 15s playoffs in Seattle. Even with an unfortunate closing of their time in Seattle, the squad was able to promptly shift gears back into 7s and wrap up its season with a national championship in Atlanta.
Winning a championship was the highlight of the 2021-2022 season. A season like this could not have been possible without the foundational skillset established by head coach Charlie Pardon and the cultural buy-in by every member of the squad.
Even though every player on the full roster did not get to travel to Atlanta, their support was still truly felt by the 13-man roster that made the trip. A 13-man roster that ignored odds, upset tournament favorites, and simply stuck to their game plan.
A national championship could not have been possible without the following USD Rugby program members:
Eoin O'Callaghan, Ben Keefer, Paul Habeeb, Nick Classen, Oliver Kane, Joey Shenton, Micky O'Leary, Michael Ramos, Devin Hoovel (Tournament MVP), Michael Lewis, Jackson Short, Alex Lim and Jordan Sandoval
Director of Rugby, Kevin Eaton — In his third year as Program Director after having previously served as head coach and assistant coach. Kevin has been the primary liaison between the current USD Rugby Club and the old boys, the San Diego Rugby Alumni Association. Through his role, Kevin ensured that logistics were situated and players and coaches had the right support from the right people at the right time.
Head Coach, Charlie Purdon — The South African born rugby player and former pro set high expectations for the club since the day he arrived at USD. His commitment to excellence and dedication to perfecting rugby fundamentals has laid the foundation for the growth and success we have seen of USD Rugby. Coach Charlie’s guidance was pivotal in this championship.
Strength and Conditioning Coach, Scott Thomas
Forwards Coach, Graham Wolfe
Team Manager, Rainer Cardin
Team Captain, Oliver Kane — The graduate student from Tennessee captained both the 7's and 15's teams. His leadership was displayed rather than spoken, done so by his physicality and authoritative presence on the pitch that recurrently set the tone in each match. It's always great to get leadership from the big boys up front and at loose-head prop Kane did just that. With his performance in the 7s tournament, Kane caught some eyes of professional scouts and may have just punched his ticket to Major League Rugby.
A little more about the players on the winning 13-man roster; current sophomore and USA 7s Collegiate Tournament MVP Devin Hoovel, played a physical and fundamentally sound game throughout the entire tournament. His 7s National Tournament performance was preceded by a Second-team All Conference award that should have arguably been a First-team, shown through the seven tries he scored in Atlanta. Scorning seven tries at a national tournament against some of the best in the nation is no small feat. Seven tries for the Tournament MVP has put his name into national conversations. “Hoovel” they said, “learn the name.”
Players such as Paul Habeeb and Nick Classen, were both new to rugby, having only played for 2-3 years, but came into this tournament with a familiarity to the pressure of high profile athletic success. The national stage was nothing new to both Habeeb and Classen having won national championships in high school. Habeeb won his first in football at Mater Dei out of Orange County and Classen in water polo also at Mater Dei. Further glorifying the legacy of Mater Dei and the athletics prowess that their alumni carry into college.
Congratulations to the University of San Diego Rugby National Champions and the three student-athletes who graduated in May: Oliver Kane, Thomas Geloso and Jordan Sandoval. To these gentlemen we say 'thank you' for playing an integral role in the success of this program both on the pitch and off of it.
Another congratulations and thanks to Chris Pascale for spearheading our recent participation in the 44th Annual USD Sports Banquet. The event is USD Athletics' largest fundraiser of the year benefiting the Torero Scholar-Athlete Fund. This year the San Diego Rugby Alumni Association sponsored the attendance of Director of Rugby Kevin Eaton, team manager Rainier Cardin, strength and conditioning coach Scott Thomas and players Oliver Kane and Nick Classen. Chris, who remains especially well connected on campus, made sure that the national title and recent accomplishments of USD Rugby were recognized among the university brass, prompting the recognition and praise from USD Athletic Director Bill McGillis during the event.
Moving into the 2022-2023 season, USD Rugby is looking to carry the momentum of a national championship into the 7s and 15s season. With the anticipated arrival of four of the highest touted rugby college prospects, head coach Charlie Purdon looks to build on the success of the ’21-’22 season and keep the winning streak going.
Coming Up: SDRAA is looking to establish a foundation to manage a permanent Endowment Fund to support USD Rugby and its players. With ongoing work behind the scenes, stay tuned as we hope to have some very exciting news to share soon.