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Tennessee Win Finalizes DIAA Bracket

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Tennessee Win Finalizes DIAA Bracket

Tennessee defeated Kennesaw State in fairly convincing fashion to win the SCRC Saturday, taking revenge for an earlier 29-19 KSU win in league play.

The victory is somewhat muted in that it didn't really give the Vols a better matchup in the DIAA playoffs this coming weekend. The losing team is matched up with MAC champion Bowling Green. The winning team gets to face MAC runner-up Western Michigan, a team that Bowling Green beat 23-20 in the final. The two opponents are essentially equal.

(Click on the image at left to see the final DIAA bracket)

Interestingly, Western Michigan also beat the eventual conference champs in the regular season. This fall spells out that losing those supposedly critical games isn't the end of the run if you make the right adjustments.

And Tennessee did. Helped along by some injuries woes for Kennesaw State, Tennessee benefited from the team working hard to get better each week. 

Senior Ben Schwartz had probably his most complete game as a Volunteer at fullback. Ran hard, was steady under the high ball, scored a try, had a penalty kick and was 4/7 on conversions.

Senior Flanker Andy Lloyd and Junior Flanker Tory Griffin covered a lot of ground for 80 minutes and each had a try for their efforts. Their work rate went a long way in helping keep KSU scoreless in the second half.

"The strength of this team has been their determination and commitment to each other," said Tennessee Head Coach Marty Bradley. "It hasn’t always been pretty this season but its always been with full effort and determination and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that."

The game was, of course, tight and in fact could have gone either way until Tennessee ran away in the last 25 minutes or so. 

The teams traded tries in the first 20 minutes and KSU led 14-7. Tennessee got a penalty goal only for Kennesaw State to score another try to lead 21-10. But the tide began to turn right at halftime. Flanker Tory Griffin scored right at the break to make it 21-17 with Ben Schwartz's conversion, and despite being behind, it was Tennessee that entered the break with a jolt of confidence.

"They played their best rugby the second half of the conference championship game, and that’s some pretty good timing," said Bradley.

And so they did. Center Josh Shelter scored three minutes in to put Tennessee up 24-21, and then tries from Greg Janowick, Patrick Beacom, and Andy Lloyd in the space of ten minutes turned a nailbiter into a 39-21 scoreline. Schwartz wrapped it up with two minutes left and converted for a 46-21 win.

Schwartz had possibly his best game for the Volunteers as a fullback.

"He ran hard, was steady under the high ball," said Bradley. Schwartz ended with day with 16 points.

Now conference champs, Tennessee has a tough two-game weekend with Western Michigan, and then, if they win, St. Joseph's or NC State.  

"Our challenge now is to not let the conference championship be our high-water mark," said Bradley. "It's time to focus on the opportunities and tremendous challenges that are ahead of us."