D-III Champ Wis.-Whitewater Looks To Defend Crown
Dec. 17, 2008
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Wisconsin-Whitewater should be used to a busy schedule by now.
A glance at Wednesday's itinerary includes a 40-mile bus trip to Madison, a practice at the Badgers' indoor facility, a quick meal and a flight to Salem, Va., to play in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl for the Division III title Saturday.
Whitewater (13-1) has made the trip to the title game the previous three years and will again play powerhouse Mount Union of Alliance, Ohio.
This year is different, though. The Warhawks are the defending champs this time after losses to the Purple Raiders in 2005 and 2006.
Not that Warhawks coach Lance Leipold thinks it matters much.
"Winning it last year probably makes us the hunted, but based on our regional seed this year and having to go on the road, I still view us as a hunter this week," Leipold said. "We were not the No. 1 seed in our region. We had to go on the road twice. ... Mount Union is the undefeated team. We are not. I think there is a lot there for us to still have a hunter mentality."
The Warhawks, who lost to Wisconsin-Stevens Point 17-16 in their seventh game, needed two road wins in the playoffs. Whitewater got them with a 30-27 second-round victory at Williamette in Salem, Ore., and a 39-13 semifinal win over Mary-Hardin Baylor in Belton, Texas to return to Virginia.
While Whitewater has only one title, compared to the nine Mount Union has won in the past 14 years, Leipold has built on the work of Bob Berezowitz, who coached the school for 22 years through the 2006 title game.
"I think these teams the last two years, I attribute it to our assistant coaches of doing an excellent job of keeping a one game at a time mentality and really working hard," Leipold said. "Even at times when we've had a bump in the road and had a defeat, we have not spent a lot of time dwelling on that.
"We keep moving forward and I think our players have done an excellent job of not looking too far ahead or spending time looking behind them of what they might have accomplished earlier in a season or a season in the past," he added.
Not that there's been that many defeats - just four in the past four seasons, including two to Mount Union.
All the success has put the school, whose most notable students included Animal House star and comedian John Belushi, author Sean Patrick Little and Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski, in a short list of the top programs in Division III.
"It's a tribute to a lot of people," Leipold said. "A few years ago, Bob and the program's goal was to get in the conversation of the top teams in Division III. He did that. Mount Union and Whitewater - we're in the (same) sentence now."