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The DII final four is set with two familiar foes and two new challengers rounding out the competition on December 3 and 4 at Furman University. UW-Whitewater, UM-Duluth, Norwich and Furman will battle it out for the 2016 national title.
Weather was a factor in all but the Southern regional. Pittsburgh held two regional’s, with snow and mud plaguing the fields. In Nebraska, it was also cold and wet, something the Midwest schools are all too familiar with.
Whitewater returns to the dance and will look to square off for the third consecutive time. Whitewater was impressive on Sunday, blanking Coast Guard 39-0 in snowy, and muddy conditions.
Duluth had a tough battle with a familiar opponent. The Fighting Penguins beat North Dakota State twice this year and managed to get a third with a tough 43-21 victory.
Norwich punched its first ticket to the DII National dance with a 38-22 victory over Rowan. Norwich got out to an early 21-5 lead and managed to stymie any Rowan chances to get the game even. The last time Norwich made the playoffs three years ago, Rowan knocked the Cadets out in the round of 16 then but Norwich got revenge with a victory this weekend.
“It is the first time we have been to Nationals in DII. We have been there before in DI and when the playoffs were geographic unions but it s good to be back,” said Norwich coach Bob Weggler.
The Cadets are 10-0 this year and have tested themselves against some top competition. The NECRC is a tough conference with the likes of Middlebury, URI and Vermont and set the Cadets up well for post-season play. They will certainly be tested again as they face a very talented and experienced Warhawks squad.
“Pittsburgh had two regional’s so they played before us. They put up 55 points against Middlebury and 39 on Coast Guard in not great conditions so that was pretty impressive,” Weggler said of Whitewater.
Furman continued its undefeated season with a 40-19 victory over North Carolina State. The Paladins jumped out to a 35-7 lead, stifling the NC State backline of any opportunities.
“They were a real athletic team and we played real awesome defense against them,” said Furman coach John Roberts. “We really focused coming into the game on shutting their back line down and succeeded.”
North Carolina State added a couple late tries but the game was well in hand.
“Offensive attack was humming, our systems were working….The NC State game was the best game we put together,” Roberts said of the quarterfinal game.
It is an exciting time for Furman, as they reach their first ever DII final four. The Paladins excelled in NSCRO for years and after several years in DII finally get the chance to play for a national championship. Furman has hosted the DII final four for the last three years. After witnessing championship rugby during that span, the senior laden team finally gets a taste of the action.
“I am relieved we made the final four because this is the best Furman team we have ever had,” Roberts added. From 1-23 we are built for success. We have some depth, we have athletes and we have them playing in the right spots.”
It will not be easy, however, as Furman will take on the three time defending champions.
“Watching Duluth, they have been the most tenacious team I have ever seen and they are relentless. That is what impressed me with them is they don’t miss tackles. They run to open space…we will have that to contend with,” Roberts said of Duluth.
|UW-Whitewater||39-0||Coast Guard||DII Playoffs|
|Minnesota-Duluth||43-21||North Dakota State||DII Playoffs|
|Furman||40-19||NC State||DII Playoffs|