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Whitewater, VMI For DII Title

College Men

Whitewater, VMI For DII Title

Jeremy Fleming photo.

GREENVILLE, SC – The Men's DII semis went as expected in that VMI and Norwich were very. very closely aligned, and UW-Whitewater v North Dakota State a little more one-sided (but just a little).

VMI defeated Norwich University 41-36 in sudden-death, double-overtime Saturday on the campus of Furman University in Greenville, SC.

In a classic game in which each team traded scores back and forth, the two programs ended regulation tied 26-26.

VMI controlled the opening half, scoring first with a long try run by Paul Conteh after he dashed through the NU defense with an explosive burst of speed and shedding tackles. The Keydets extended their lead to 11-0 with back-to-back penalty kick conversions from Mitchell in the 20th minute and the 30th minute. 

Grant Fudge notched his first try of the game for VMI late in the first half to stretch the lead to 16-0. Norwich was finally able to get on the board on the final play of the first half with Taulupe Tau scoring to make it 16-5.

Norwich opened the second half and continued to roll with the momentum, scoring back to-back converted tries from Korbin Wayton and Matthew Ulufanua. Keegan Frick hit the conversions on both, nudging Norwich ahead 19-16.

Conteh scored his second of the game to give VMI the lead back in the 68th minute. Norwich responded with a score of its own in the 73rdminute with Jay Inzenga scoring a converted try by Frick to regain the lead for Norwich at 26-21. 

VMI responded again though with an unconverted try in the 78th minute to tie the game back up at 26-26 with the conversion attempt just missing left. In overtime, Norwich scored two unconverted tries from Yao Dyson to lead 36-26 in overtime. However, VMI got a try from Grant Fudges, converted by Thomas Mitchell, and a penalty to tied it 36-36.

So on to sudden death, and Fudge broke through for the crucial try to win it for VMI. This was the Keydets first appearance at the national semis, and now Sunday will be the program's first appearance in the final.

As for Norwich, the Cadets play for this on Sunday.

"I'm proud of the way the guys played all season and represented Norwich rugby," said NU head coach Bob Weggler. "Today was an unbelievable battle for nearly 110 minutes. We came up a little short, but I know our boys left everything on the pitch." 

Norwich will play North Dakota State for 3rd, as the defending champion Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks won 51-25 over NDSU. This was a tough one, too, and it was a one-score game 50 minutes in until fullback Garrett Shibilski raced in to give the Warhawks a cushion. NDSU got one back, but after that it was all Whitewater.