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One year after Minnesota-Duluth completed the first ever DII 15s and 7s national title sweep, Wisconsin-Whitewater accomplished the same feat. The Warhawks completed the double whammy by going 6-0 and defeating UNC-Charlotte 26-5 in the final of the USA Rugby DII 7s national final on Sunday.
“Winning both is just a blessing. We have worked extremely hard to continue excellence as a club and it has finally paid off with the USA Rugby national championship sweep,” said Whitewater club President Eric Pachowitz.
Despite being the last team to qualify for the tournament, Whitewater topped its group with victories over Endicott, William Paterson and St. Louis. UWW edged Endicott in a rematch in the quarterfinals and slipped by Hartford in the semis to make its way to the finals.
UNC-Charlotte powered through group play with convincing wins over UT-San Antonio, NC State and Drexel. The 49ers dispatched Drexel once again in the semis and edged Southern Connecticut to earn a spot in the final.
Whitewater opened the scoring in the final through Garrett Shibilski. The Warhawks found a gap in the middle of the field and Shibilski made no mistake for a 7-0 lead.
Alec Truethardt extended the lead to 14-0 with his blistering pace out wide. The winger outflanked the defense and went in under the posts.
UNC-Charlotte controlled possession for much of the remaining part of the first half but could not muster any offense. The 49ers moved the ball from side to side but never got into an attacking position.
Truethardt cemented the solid first half with his second score of the game. The speedster poached the ball at a ruck deep in 49er territory and UNCC committed a penalty. The Warhawks went quick and Shibilski popped the ball inside from the left sideline to Truethardt, who spun off a defender for a 19-0 halftime lead.
“Alec came back in the last two matches incredibly difficult to stop. He has had a hamstring issue for all of sevens season so having close to 100 percent for us in the final was crucial,” Pachowitz said of the speedster.
Charlotte controlled much of the possession in the second half but erratic offloads, knock-ons and isolated players resulted in a myriad of turnovers. One of those turnovers resulted in what looked would be Truethardt’s third but an incredible cover tackle into touch by Tyrek Hundley saved the score.
The tackle gave Charlotte some momentum as Jimmy Huntley took the ensuing line out, outflanked the defense and beat the sweeper to cut the lead 19-5.
The 49ers won the ensuing kickoff and probed frantically. The ball bounced several times and after a mess of kicks and sloppy play, John Grams picked up a loose ball and went the distance to ice the game.
It is a fitting tribute for seniors Patchowitz and Conor Bell, who have now won both a 15s and 7s title that had long eluded them.
“Since we had been so close before, there is not a better way to go out than with a sweep of the division two national championships,” an ecstatic Pachowitz told Rugby Today.