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Unflinching Duluth Has Mentality to Win Again

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Unflinching Duluth Has Mentality to Win Again

Henry Elholm photo.

The lesson in the top four teams in men’s DII college championships is that tough competition makes you strong - except when you are talking about Minnesota-Duluth.

The defending national champion Fighting Penguins have dominated in their Northern Lights Conference, and while Head Coach Jeramy Katchuba said that the contenders in Northern Lights were difficult to play, the numbers tell a different story. UMD won their conference with a 6-0 record, outscoring opponents 384-22. They won their semifinal by forfeit, and their final 69-0. The national playoffs were little different - 24-3 over GVSU, and 46-3 over Lindenwood-Belleville. So ten fixtures leading to a national championship; two forfeit wins, and of the eight games where there was a real game played, average score 64-4. Three playoff games (conference championship, Round of 16, and national quarterfinals), and no tries allowed.

This means some pretty fancy discipline. This is a team that, having been to a national final three times in the last 30 months, knows what’s required.

Players like Lars Anderson at prop, and the imposing second row of Andrew Buntrock and Connor Gleeson, the flyhalf Trace Bolstad, and center Logan Hanson all know what it takes to win at this level.

So when Katchuba says he isn’t super excited about his team’s preparation, don’t believe it.

“The prep has been 50/50; it always is as the championships fall the week after the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Katchuba. “We also have a bit of weather to contend with, but we are making it work.”

Yes. That’s the key phrase. They are making it work.

And to make it work and win again, Duluth will have to accept the fact that these coming games will be the toughest they have played all year. Salisbury, the only team in the final four to not have won their conference, is no pushover, and will play tough defense, and play rugby all day long. They will put Duluth under pressure. 

“We definitely need to limit our errors and penalties,” said Katchuba. “The error and penalty count have been way to high in many of our matches, and if we continue that, there is no way that we will beat Salisbury.  The other big thing will be to make sure that we are patient against Salisbury.  The level of competition will be much higher than we have faced all year.  Salisbury tackles very well and we can’t get away from our game plan just because we are not making 15 meters on every play.”

So Duluth knows what’s ahead, and it’s that understanding of what is required that has seen them win two straight national championships, and possibly a third.