Final Four trip set for rugby team

Two. That’s the number of wins the men’s club rugby team is away from being crowned Division II national champions after it advanced to the Final Four this past weekend.

The rugby Final Four is scheduled to start April 30 in Pittsburgh. The Warhawks will take on Sierra College in the semifinals.

The ’Hawks extended its winning streak to 17 matches after defeating California State Fullerton University, 46-7, and Maritime College, 36-19.

Although the ’Hawks knew next-to-nothing about their opponents coming into the weekend, it didn’t seem to slow them down.

“We dominated Cal State,” junior Will Atkinson said.  “We just came out and took over the game, and they couldn’t hang with us fundamentally or athletically.”

The team enjoyed similar success over Maritime for the first half, but had to fight to hold on to the lead late in the match. Maritime outscored UW-Whitewater 14-3 in the second half.

“We came out intense right away and built a 33-5 halftime lead,” Atkinson said.  “But Maritime was a big, physical team and they were mentally tough as well so they weren’t about to give up.”

One of the reasons the ’Hawks haven’t been stopped is because of their run game.

“We have been getting production from everywhere,” Atkinson said.  “Our backs are fast and can just take the ball and run, or we can take it out of the scrum.  No one can stop us lately.”

Freshman Chuck Koehler has been another reason the ’Hawks have had success.

Koehler’s outstanding play has earned him the honor of being a U-20 All-American. As a result, Koehler will join the USA Rugby team in England this summer to train.

The ’Hawks will have two weeks before the next round of the tournament to prepare and will keep the regiment they had all season.

Atkinson said there will be an emphasis on conditioning, as the team’s athleticism gave it a clear advantage over the competition it faced in San Diego.

Costs piling up for team

It has taken more than just hard work to get the team this far.

It has also taken quite a bit of money.

During the season the team has received sizeable contributions from the club sports department, the Residence Hall Association and the Chancellor’s Fund to help cover expenses.

Even with these donations the team still had to put on several fundraisers, and pay out of its own pockets to cover all of the costs incurred this season.

“We’re in pretty good shape as a club right now, but the cost of this next trip is definitely something we will have to address,” Atkinson said. “I’m hesitant to ask our players to fork over more dough because a lot of us have paid quite a bit of money out of our own pockets to keep playing rugby.”

Atkinson said the cost of the team’s recent trip to nationals in San Diego was almost $3,400 for the hotel.

Plane tickets were around $400 a person and the players had to pay for their own.

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