By Andrew Newman
VIRGINIA BEACH — The Nittany Lions were excited to get back on the pitch for the first 7s tournament of the spring semester. Traveling down to Virginia Beach (Va.) for the Surfside 7s tournament, the field featured twelve collegiate teams from around the country. Penn State gave a stellar performance over the course of two days, but it was not enough to withstand American International College, falling, 36-5, in the tournament’s semifinals.
Penn State opened up the tournament against Western Michigan, a team the Nittany Lions matched up against in the Larrimer Cup last May. In the first game of the season, the Lions grabbed the win 17-10. Penn State (4-1) got two tries in the game from senior Jay Mathias, whom played for the first time this weekend since March 2012. Sophomore Selby Niumataiwalu, a returning member of the 2013 CRC team, also scored a try to round out the scoring.
“It was great to be playing again as a team and representing Penn State at such a quality tournament such as the Surfside Sevens at Virginia Beach,” stated Jay Mathias. “Many top sides from the east coast and central region were in attendance such as Kuztown, AIC, Notre Dame College, St. Joseph’s and others.”
The second game saw Penn State take on Heat Elite 7s. The Lions held on to win the game, 26-19, again with Mathias scoring two tries. Sophomore Dan Taylor also got his name on to the scoring sheet in the game, another returning member of the 2013 CRC team. Freshman Malcolm May also made an impact in the game when he scored.
The third and final game for the Nittany Lions was against Notre Dame College. Scoring four tries from four different players, and converting three of them, Penn State won its third game of the day 28-19. Senior prop Dan Sweeney, whom is looking for his third CRC performance, led the scoring effort with his first try of the weekend. Senior Dominic DeFalco also made a huge impact, scoring his first try of the weekend, while playing staunch defense. DeFalco is hoping to appear in his fourth CRC this upcoming June. Taylor again used his pace to score a try, while freshman prop Chris Burian galloped 50 meters for a try off of an offload from Sweeney.
By going 3-0 on the first day, the Nittany Lions were given the #3 seed going into the Cup Quarterfinals. Lining up against University of Miami (OH), Penn State won the game, 26-15. Mathias was back where he left off from the first day, scoring two tries against the Red Hawks. Senior prop Dan Metcalf got his name on the scoring sheet against Miami, as well as freshman Joe Kelly, whom just recently returned from the U-20 Junior World Trophy.
With the win, Penn State then met American International College in the semifinals. The AIC Yellow Jackets, led by senior Ben Roach and freshman Christian Adams, were the 2-seed going into the Cup quarterfinals, beating East Tennessee, Miami, and Stony Brook. AIC got the better of the Nittany Lions in the matchup, taking the game 36-5. Penn State’s lone score came from Sweeney.
AIC went on to beat Kutztown in the Championship game.
“Overall, it was a good weekend and a productive step in working towards performing our best at the CRCs. We’re looking forward to focusing on 7s throughout May and believe we can be very competitive at CRCs,” said Mathias.
The Nittany Lions will look to a few additional tournaments before heading to the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s. Held May 30 – June 1 at PPL Park in Chester, the Nittany Lions have been placed in pool D with Northeastern, University of South Carolina and UCLA.
Tickets to the event can be purchased through http://www.usasevenscrc.com/tickets/pennstate.