Though there are absolutely zero playoff implications on the line, Saturday’s “Midwest Championship” in Chicago between Minnesota (Midwest West champs) and Bowling Green (Midwest East champs) is going to have all the feel of a postseason bout, as both titlists are trying to sharpen their skills before the win-or-go-home games begin.
“It’s kind of for some bragging rights to the keep the feeling of the Midwest East-Midwest West rivalry alive and say, ‘Hey, we’re the Midwest champions,’ ” said Minnesota coach Loren Lemke.
“We both know the importance of playing college rugby at speed, and the only way we can get that speed is playing against college guys, and since we both are always struggling for those types of matches, we both figured it’s a good warm-up to make sure everything’s where we want it to be to get ready for the run at nationals.”
This will be Bowling Green’s second game of the like this spring, as they met and defeated Buffalo, another playoff-bound team, 47-5 March 26. However, Saturday is going to be Minnesota’s first game in the sunshine (fingers crossed) since fall. The Gophers have been training and scrimmaging indoors, but are ready to play a real game on real grass.
If Minnesota and Bowling Green are to see each other in the postseason, it will be in the national title match, so neither is too worried about having to conceal their game plan.
“We’ll play it straight,” Bowling Green’s Roger Mazzarella said.
“Are we going to show them every single trick we have? I don’t think so,” commented Lemke. “Because we haven’t been outside enough, I don’t think we have everything put in. But are we going to and put it all out there? Oh yeah. We’re going to physically go and put it all out there. For us, we’re looking at this as either a confirmation of what is already set up, or are we going to have to go back and tweak a couple things on the drawing board?”
Bowling Green, likewise, is playing this game to win, and since Minnesota's first-round opponent at nationals is the Falcons' MWEC rival Davenport, this is a game those interested in filling out a bracket later this month ought to pay attention to.