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NC State captured the DII men’s national title with a convincing 57-12 win over two time reigning champions Wisconsin-Whitewater. It was the first national championship in program history.
To get to the finals the Wolfpack had to dispatch a tough Iowa Central squad. The game was 21-17 early in the first half but NC State pulled away for a 33-17 victory over the Tritons.
The Warhawks reached their third consecutive final with a 43-36 win over upstart Queens College.
The game was very much a hard hitting clash early in the first half. The Wolfpack got out to an early 7-0 lead and led 19-12 at halftime. The Warkhawks struggled to play from behind and ultimately could not find a response to a strong NC State team.
“We knew Whitewater was good and experienced at this level. They have some guys that can score on you fast if you give them space. We watched live games and film to try and identify the risks and adequate ways to mitigate,” said NC State coach Brian Ketcham.
Endurance played a large roll in both wins over the weekend. NC State proved to be the better team in both second halves and capped off Sunday with five unanswered tries.
“We had to concentrate on getting shape quickly on offense and defense so we could advance fast together on defense or with support on offense. It's just a constantly swarming game plan that is hard to keep up with for 80 minutes,” added Ketcham.
NC State came out of one of the toughest conferences in the country and finished the season unbeaten. It was the most skilled and athletic teams in program history with athletes converted from other sports North Carolina kids who came through the growing youth program and international students.
“This team has a super high rugby IQ for 18-20 year olds and we have been able to develop a system that targets our high points and minimizes risk,” Ketcham said of the 2018 team.
NC State is thrilled to win the national championship and is happy to beaten tough competition along the way.
“It means a lot for the club to reach this level. Some people give us grief because we are a D1 school but play in D2. That happened for a number of reasons that aren't due to us. The loss of the ACRL left a void of D1 quality rugby clubs in this region and our club status and minimal budget leave us few options when we need a conference to play and qualify. We beat a number of varsity level teams handily this year and the performance this weekend is an exclamation point on the validation if our volunteer, club system,” Ketcham concluded.