There will be no repeat for the men’s club rugby team.
The Warhawks’ road to last season’s 7-3 win over Middlebury in the national championship began in Cottage Grove, but that was where the journey ended this season.
The team defeated Central Missouri 42-7 Saturday April 28, but failed to advance past the round of eight in the Division-II playoffs after it fell to Lindenwoord 27-5 on the 29.
Rugbymag.com had the ’Hawks ranked No. 2 in the nation at the start of the playoffs and the team they were supposed to play was No. 13 Texas Tech University.
A late drop from Texas Tech matched UW-Whitewater up against the No. 15 ranked University of Central Missouri in the first round.
The Mules were steamrolled 42-7 and junior Brian Heim attributed part of the success to changes made to the team’s technique.
“We spent the last two weeks changing up our system because things weren’t working out in our scrum,” Heim said. “Our technique was a big reason why we lost to Green Bay and Madison, but we were owning teams after the changes.”
The first round win set up a clash between the top two teams in the nation. Lindenwood University, which took the No. 1 ranking from the ’Hawks, won its first round game against No. 7 UW-Milwaukee 43-5.
The ’Hawks held the Lions to 27 points but only managed to score five of their own. Heim said the team had a shot to win but a mistake-free game from Lindenwood put it out of reach.
“I think our scrum was superior but they had a stellar back line,” Heim said. “You could tell some of their foreign players had been playing all their lives too, which is no excuse for us, but they were just a very good team.”
Moving forward, the ’Hawks will lose seven seniors, six of whom are starters.
One senior, Will Atkinson, was a part of the championship team from last season. He said it’s sad to leave the commeradarie behind, but the future is bright at UW-Whitewater.
“We played a good team early on, Lindenwood was as good or better than Middlebury,” Atkinson said. “It sucks to leave but moving on is part of life.
“It’s heartbreaking to leave it all and I don’t think I’ll ever replace what I had here. Even if we won it all again this year and I was leaving on top it would still be bittersweet because I’d still have to go.”