UPDATE: Middlebury defeated Georgetown in Friday’s semifinal and Wisconsin in Saturday’s national championship game, giving the Panthers their second Division II national title in three years. Read more: http://blogs.middlebury.edu/rugby

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-The Middlebury men’s rugby team is returning to Palo Alto, Calif., on Friday, May 1, for the Men’s Collegiate Division II Championships. In their third straight trip to the “Big Four,” Middlebury will be attempting to regain the title they last won in 2007 on the same field at Stanford University’s Steuber Stadium.

The men of the Middlebury College Rugby Club (MCRC) will face Georgetown University at 1 p.m. in one national semifinal. The winner of that game will play Saturday afternoon at 3 in the championship game against the winner of Miami of Ohio vs. the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Middlebury’s road to the finals began last fall when the Panthers completed an undefeated season, 11-0, as both New England and Northeast Region champions, beating the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the University of Maine in the finals at West Point.

The Panthers faced off with California’s Humboldt State in the round of 16.

That title qualified the ruggers for the round of 16 held last weekend in Florida, where they defeated California’s Humboldt State, 37-13, and the University of South Florida, 32-17. Middlebury is currently ranked second in the Division II national poll, despite being one of the smallest schools in the division.

As a club team, the MCRC depends on funding from the Student Activities fee, donations, raffles, and working during the school year at jobs such as providing gate security for the NESCAC and NCAA men’s basketball games.

This marks the third straight year MCRC has made it to the national semifinals. As they did the last three seasons, the team spent their spring break training on campus, before playing three warm-up matches to prepare for the title run. Choosing to take on Division I programs, Middlebury rolled past Boston College, 52-0, and beat a strong Yale side, 53-5, before defeating traditional Division II rival UVM, 40-0.

Several starters were lost to injury during the build-up, including forwards captain Alex White ‘09. It is a tribute to the team’s depth that they have been able to overcome these losses on the way to Stanford.

The team’s seniors celebrated after their quarterfinal win over the University of South Florida.

“Last weekend demonstrated the true character of our team. At no point were we behind during the weekend. Nine different players scored and only one person scored two tries. We used our depth and experience to outplay our larger, stronger opponents,” said Max Levine ‘09, the club president and backs captain. Levine has already been named to represent the United States in the Maccabiah Games, to be held this summer in Israel.

To learn more about the Middlebury team or the Division II Collegiate Championships, see the links below. The same weekend at Stanford will also feature the women’s DI and DII tournament finals, as well as the men’s DI championship, in which the University of California-Berkeley is favored to defend their national title.

Middlebury College Rugby Club blog:

eRugbyNews article on Middlebury’s qualification:

Web site for USA Rugby: