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Middlebury Jumps Back In

Monday Apr 20, 2009 in Amateur Competitions Division II Colleges

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(Alex Goff photo)

April 20, 2009 – Middlebury College joins Georgetown, Miami and Wisconsin in the men’s DII Big Four, and of those four they are the only program to repeat as semifinalists.

In fact Middlebury has now made the national DII semis three years in a row, winning it all in 2007  and losing a close 14-5 decision to Utah Valley University last year.

A quick glance at the Middlebury lineup shows a bunch of young athletes who all look pretty much the same – no one is enormous, no one tiny – and you’d be hard-pressed to pick the locks from the wings just by looking at them.

Backs captain Trey Stewart likes it that way.

”As a team we don’t have guys who stand out, we’re a rugby team,” he said. “We’re very unselfish with the ball, we hit the guys that are open, we’re always looking for the space and the guy who is in space. It doesn’t matter who it is, because everyone on our team has skills and works hard.”

They needed to work hard against a very capable South Florida team that didn’t back down one bit. Middlebury took a 12-3 lead into the halftime break but USF came back after a torrid sequence of kicks and counters with a try in the forwards (prop Shayne Schmidt) to make it 12-10.

”In the first game we had a lot of offsides,” said Stewrat, “you can’t do that. We worked on coming through the game and getting behind the back foot. We felt like we gave Humboldt all their points off our penalties.”

Sixty minutes into the game Middlebury clung to a two-point lead, but from there the Panthers opened it up. Robert Grosney’s try was converted by Ari Silverman, and the center then added two crucial penalty goals to make it 25-10 with eight minutes to go.

Jonathon Nowakowski’s try for USF pulled his side within eight (lock Justin Hill converted for his third successful kick of the day). But flyhalf Nick Fager scampered in to seal the game 32-17.

”We just thought we needed to go out there and match their intensity and their aggressiveness,” said Stewart. “We felt we could beat them in the set plays and the skills and we felt like we were fitter.”

They certainly finished the better team, and now go into the semifinals the only team that has been there before.

”We’ll enjoy this for a day but then it’s back to work,” said Stewart.

- Alex Goff © www.erugbynews.com

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