The defending national champion men’s rugby team has completed its spring season and will head to nationals April 28.
The team will face Texas Tech in the National Sweet Sixteen in Cottage Grove and will face the winner of Lindenwood vs. UW-Milwaukee if they win.
UW-Whitewater goes into the matchup as the No. 1 team in the nation, according to rugbymag.com, while the Red Raiders are No. 13.
Lindenwood sits at No. 2 and UW-Milwaukee is currently No. 7. The Warhawks already defeated the Panthers this season in the Midwest Regional Tournament for the second consecutive year.
Unfortunately for the ’Hawks, they also head into the matchup as losers of their last two exhibition games against UW-Madison and UW-Green Bay.
“We had a strong start against UW-Madison, but the wheels kind of fell off and we lost,” club president Brian Heim said. “We fell behind early against UW-Green Bay and closed the gap in the last five minutes but came up short.”
Heim said injuries have hindered the team, but the main contributing factor to its struggles is the players are still trying to build their team chemistry.
This year’s squad lost five starters from its championship lineup. Heim also said the team would be fine if they could eliminate small mistakes from its play.
Sophomore Chuck Koehler said this past weekend was tough, but the team is capable of moving forward.
“It takes its toll on you playing two games in one weekend and it hurt walking to class today, but it’s a part of the game,” Koehler said. “It was really tough for me because I’ve never lost a game at Whitewater.”
The ’Hawks won all of their games last season and every game this season before last weekend. Heim said the team can win its upcoming matches, but will need the support of the fans to repeat as champions.
“Our next matches are less than 40 minutes away and it means a lot to us to see people come out and support us,” Heim said. “It really makes a difference to have fans cheering us on.”