UW-W football to open NCAA tournament at home
The Warhawks (9-1, 7-0) get a home game at noon Saturday against Capital University (8-2) of Columbus, Ohio, in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Whitewater also held its home ground last year en route to a second straight appearance in the national title game at Salem, Va., against Mount Union (Ohio), now the two-time defending champion.
The battle again is on to return to Salem, and Mount Union (10-0) again is included. The Raiders open at home Saturday against Ithaca, N.Y. (8-2).
If Whitewater advances, its second-round game will be against North Central (8-2) of Naperville, Ill., or Franklin, Ind. (9-1).
Whitewater is joined in the playoffs by WIAC rival UW-Eau Claire (8-2, 5-2), the conference runner-up. The Blugolds, coached by Janesville native Todd Glaser, open on Saturday against Midwest Conference champion St. Norbert (10-0, 9-0) at De Pere, and the winner faces Concordia, Wis. (7-3) or Bethel, Minn. (9-1).
This marks the second straight year the WIAC has had two teams reach the NCAA playoffs. Whitewater defeated UW-La Crosse, 24-21, in last year’s second round.
As the WIAC champion for the third straight year, Whitewater again received the conference’s automatic NCAA bid. Eau Claire was an at-large selection, as was Capital for the third straight year.
Capital went 7-2 in the Ohio Athletic Conference, losing to Otterbein, 17-10, and Mount Union, 37-0.
Whitewater is making its sixth NCAA appearance. The Warhawks went 14-1 the last two years, losing only to Mount Union. Their only loss in this, their first season under coach Lance Leipold, was 26-16 to St. Cloud State, Minn., a Division II program.
Eau Claire reached the 1998 semifinals in its only previous NCAA appearance. This is the Blugolds’ second season under Glaser.