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Rubber Match in Offing for DII Winners?

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Rubber Match in Offing for DII Winners?

Division II rugby may well be gearing up for a third Duluth-Salisbury clash in the space of 18 months, as the colleges that fought for two national title last year enter the fall season.

Last year, Salisbury defeated Minnesota-Duluth in the spring 2012-2013 final, and then, with the season being shifted to all-fall, the Fighting Penguins hammered the Sharks to make it 1-1.

Will it be the rubber match this fall? Several other colleges might argue, but at the moment UMD and Salisbury head the list.

For Duluth, the season has already started with a practice game against Northern Michigan. Head Coach Jeramy Katchuba said he was happy with the first run-out for a team that has seen some good players graduate.

“The guys looked good for a preseason match,” said Katchuba. “We are returning 11 starters from the championship team, but played a lot of our younger guys yesterday.”  

The Penguins will look to Jake Leutgers, Derrick van Klein, and Lars Anderson to lead the forwards, while the backs will be anchored by Trace Bolstad, Logan Hanson, and Austin Haecherl.  Cody Christensen returns at scrumhalf, a crucial position for a team that requires quick ball the way Duluth does, while captain Blake Martin is out for a while due to concussion issues, but they hope to have him return later in the fall.

Their rivals will start play in a while, and will be slightly different as they have lost top player Nick Kuhl to graduation, and his experience and field vision will be missed. The Sharks lose eight other important players, but they have been planning for it.

“Last spring was good for us,” said backs coach Bill Creese. “We played mostly our next group of players, giving them some more experience and some time to work together as a team.”

It worked, and with some new recruits expected, Salisbury once again will show up deep, in shape, and ready to take that title back.

“The key is the buy-in,” said Creese. “We have a culture and we expect the player to be at every practice, A-side or B-side. We had one guy who was on our B-side for four years, graduated, and was a starter for his club. That sort of thing happens a lot. We’ve got depth and buy-in.”