Eight remain in quest for Men’s DII Club National Championship

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - The race for the 2016 Men's Division II Club National Championship heats up this weekend in Pittsburgh and Tucson, Ariz., where eight quarterfinalists will compete May 21-22 in hopes of reaching the June 5 title game.

In Pittsburgh, Charlotte Rugby, the Detroit Tradesmen, Village Lions, and Wilmington Rugby will battle for one of the spots in the National Final at Founders Field, while the Little Rock Stormers, Provo Steelers, Sacramento Capitals, and Tempe Old Devils will use the Kino Sports Complex to stage their quest for a National Championship appearance.

Reigning DII Champions, Wisconsin, will not be representing the Midwest at the Quarterfinals after Detroit claimed the region's representation at Nationals following one-sided defeats over the Eastside Banshees and the South Side Irish. The Tradesmen's quarterfinal opponent, Charlotte, also showed well in regional postseason competition. After winning the Carolinas-Georgia Conference, Charlotte became the South Champions after getting past Nashville Rugby and the Miami Tridents.

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On the other half of the Pittsburgh bracket the Village Lions will square off against Wilmington. After hitting a few bumps in the road over the course of the regular season, the Lions have hit their stride in the postseason. Beginning with an April 16 hammering of the Rochester Aardvarks, the Lions tacked on additional victories against the New Haven Old Black and, most recently, a 37-19 decision over the Mystic Barbarians to qualify for Nationals.

Other than a September loss to the Washington Irish, Wilmington has not been beaten this season - although it has not been easy. Just as they did in the regular season, the Philadelphia Whitemarsh and Richmond Lions pushed the Mid-Atlantic Champions for 80 minutes, but Wilmington was still able to advance through its conference playoffs.

"We have had several games where we have come from behind or triumphed by small margins," noted Wilmington Head Coach Bob Weir. "These tests have definitely bolstered our confidence in ourselves, our preparation, and our play as a team."

As for the Village Lions, Wilmington sees some similarities between the two teams, which could make for an exciting Quarterfinal.

"We understand they have been dominant with hard running to the line - which is our style, too," Weir said. "We will need to up our attention to double tackles and filling the lanes to thwart offloads. We plan on having a few new plays to show them, too."

In Arizona, Tempe might be considered the favorite and it has nothing to do with its generous geographical proximity to the Kino Sports Complex. The Old Devils have been hard done by National Playoff exits against eventual Champions that have since moved up to DI and are now winning conference championships at that level. In 2014, Tempe ran into an in-form Rocky Gorge unit that outplayed the Old Devils for the '14 title. Last year, eventual National Champion Life West needed overtime to end Tempe's season in the Semifinals.

Given all of its recent success, Tempe surely has hopes of reaching another Final, but will first have to deal with Sacramento in the Quarterfinals. The Capitals claimed the Pacific North seed to Nationals following a convincing win over the Portland Pigs in which Sacramento scored seven tries.

The winning side between Sacramento and Tempe will be up against either Little Rock or Provo. The Stormers of Little Rock reversed a losing result to Tulsa Rugby from February to win the Red River North with a 54-14 defeat of Tulsa in April. The victory proved hugely important for the Stormers, as their South Conference counterparts in Texas, Austin D2 and Houston United, could not hang with Little Rock in the Red River Playoffs.

"The team came together well at the Red River Rugby Conference Championships," said Little Rock Coach Brad Hogate. "We have been building depth all season in preparation for the playoff weekends, and it paid off last week."

Provo used a second-place finish in the Rocky Mountain to advance to the Frontier Playoffs. On the first day of regional postseason competition, the Steelers dropped the Omaha Goats, 34-27, before avenging two regular season losses to Boulder Rugby in the Frontier Final. Now, a physical Provo side must contend with the Stormers.

"Provo will be an interesting matchup," added Hogate. "We know they will come out running and hitting hard. We're not a small side, but we prefer to run and use our mobility and fitness. We should know in the first 20 minutes if we can take their power and, if we can, I like our chances."

All matches from Founders Field over the weekend will be broadcast live on USA Rugby TV, while all Men's DII matches save for the Sunday consolation game will also be available to viewers on USA Rugby TV. Additional details related to the broadcast can be found here.

Undefeated clubs at the end of the two-day weekends in Arizona and Pennsylvania will have earned the right to play in the 2016 USA Rugby Club Men's Division II National Championships June 4-5.