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The DIAA spring quarterfinals and semifinals took place over the weekend on back-to-back days with Dartmouth and the University of Nevada coming out of their respective regions. The teams will meet on April 21 to determine the spring champions.
In the eastern region, Dartmouth outlasted a feisty Missouri squad 33-10 on Saturday to set up a match up with UCF on Sunday. The last time Dartmouth and UCF met was in the 2013 DIAA semifinals with Madison Hughes in the starting 15 for Dartmouth. The Knights won that match 45-38 but this time around was much different.
The Big Green came out fast and hard against a UCF team that defeated Kansas the day before. In the end it was not much of a contest as Dartmouth racked up an 83-0 win.
The New Hampshire side had been beaten up a lot of this spring playing against tough DIA competition. Going up against the likes of Cal, Army, and Navy really prepared them for this championship run.
“As a program we believe in consistently challenging ourselves. Having the opportunity to play three of the top teams in the country in the last month was a tremendous experience for a large number of young players. Exposure to the speed of play and physicality of those teams was great for all,” said Dartmouth coach James Willocks.
Dartmouth is excited to return to the championship after several years of being bounced in the Varsity Cup early rounds.
“This past weekend was the result of months of hard work from all of our student athletes. Twenty three get to wear the jersey but we have close to 60 guys working day in and day out to improve. Now it is our job as a program to prepare for the spring final in two weeks time at ECU,” Willocks added.
Out west, a surging Nevada squad shocked the field by winning a pair of games and reaching the final. Coming into the playoffs as an at large team that finished second in the Pac West, Nevada defeated NCRC champs Western Washington 35-20 on Saturday to set up a date with Long Beach State.
Long Beach State dispatched Chico State 36-28 on Saturday. Earlier this year, 7-2 Nevada lost a close game to Chico State. It was a close contest the whole way but the Wolfpack ultimately edged Long Beach 20-17.
For Nevada, this is the farthest the team has ever gotten in the post season since joining the Pac West and DIAA. The team contributes its success this year to its commitment to fitness and recruiting talented players.
“As far as success during the season, our retention rate of new members and revamped training has been crucial to our accomplishments. Our new strength and conditioning coach implemented a style of training that takes advantage of the 4,000 feet altitude we live in which benefits us when we go down to play at sea level,” said flanker and captain Roman Neri.
This weekend, however, the team was depleted on numbers, traveling with only 19 players and losing two of them to injury on day one. Fitness helped them through it but Neri credits the teams determination for coming out on top.
“The starters played 160 minutes of intense rugby and no level of training can perfectly prepare the body for that amount of stress. Success was achieved due to the collective attitude of the men who played, that despite all odds stacked against them they refused to give up and fight through the pain. With a two day tournament the best rugby is not played on the second day. We won that match through mental fortitude and faith that our teammates will give everything they have for 80 minutes,” Neri added.
Nevada is excited to take on Dartmouth in the spring championship and truly credits the team depth for its success.
“We are excited and honored to be able to compete in the spring national championship. Even though the roster we bring will only consist of 23 guys, it took all 50 members to get us there so we will be playing for them,” concluded Neri.
The game will take place on the campus of East Carolina University.