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The men’s DI-AA quarterfinals and semifinals took place on the weekend in Pittsburgh, Pa. and on the campus of UC Davis. West Virginia, Central Florida, Arkansas and UC Davis found themselves moving on to the next round after Saturday, and UCF emerged winner of the East and Davis the West Sunday.
For the men of WVU, their win Saturday was a result of patience and mental toughness accenting their physical prowess. The Mountaineers were down early as Yale scored first and put them in a hole. The Ivy Leaguers made life difficult for WVU in the first half, especially since they held the majority of the possession in the opening 40 minutes, but in the second half the Mountaineers rebounded and regained their composure.
“Yale had a lot of possession early in the first half, which we were able to contain fairly well,” he said. “We responded well when Manny Debra broke through and scored a 40-meter try, which helped settle things.”
Once WVU settled the scores began to come a bit more freely. According to Glover, after Debra crossed over another score came from a successful scrum, Austin Hoover the beneficiary of that of his team’s hard work. Set piece success also allowed for the WVU side to cement their foothold on the match.
“Our scrums started to do well,” Glover said. “We won a few against the head, which was a massive psychological win. Our lineouts worked well, although we didn’t drive as much as we had planned.”
On the other coast, Arkansas had to put in maximum effort as the Razorbacks made their way past Long Beach, 22-14. According to the team’s Captain, Cameron Probst, it was a matter grinding it out and fighting out of a hole.
“In the first half our support was slow at ruck time,” said Arkansas captain Cameron Probst. “It was the main reason why they were up 11 to three at the half. Once we picked up the intensity it got much better.”
Defense was the saving grace for Arkansas. Rounding out the team effort, the forwards kept the scrums and line outs secure, and all 15 players made contests of the breakdowns. Despite the strong defense, Probst knows his team needs to clean up its play in order to move further in the competition.
Two-time defending National Champion Central Florida surpassed the USMMA on Saturday as well. The Knights put down the Kings Point in convincing fashion, 50-15, with a performance that saw UCF dominating possession.
“They were a possession team,” said Ali Nazir, head coach of USMMA.
Central Florida’s possession translated into points scoring points early and often. UCF was up by 14 points with only 10 minutes gone in the opening half, and the Knights led 19-10 at the half. There were some back-and-forth threats at the line, but once the Knights got settled in during the second half, the match broke open.
According to Nazir, the size of UCF’s pack posed a problem Saturday. The hard-nosed running style of the Florida squad was an issue for USMMA, but it eventually found a way to suppress the power in the Knights play.
“We started to play more of an outside game, in which we had forwards running lines as well as backs running lines," Nazir said.
UC Davis beat Western Washington 51-10 on Saturday as well, setting up a semifinal match with Arkansas. The Aggies built a five-try lead in the opening half hour, and they touched down 10 in total, beating the Razorbacks 61-10. The other semifinal was more competitive, with UCF winning 38-18. The Knights built a 16-point lead early on, but the Mountaineers rallied to draw within three at one point, 21-18. UCF reeled off 17-straight to advance.
The Knights try to three-peat May 9 at Kennesaw State's Fifth-Third Bank Stadium against UC Davis.