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Community helps Panthers get to the national rugby tournament

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 7:41 PM CST
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CEDAR FALSS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Northern Iowa men’s rugby team is one of 16 that have qualified for the national tournament. With the tourney taking place in Charleston, South Carolina, they needed a little help to get there.

It’s been a historic fall for the UNI men’s rugby team who finished the season as Midwest Conference finalists qualifying for the Division II national men’s rugby tournament.

“I don’t think UNI has been to the national tournament in the last 10 years,” said senior Kaleb Boleyn.

However, following a season’s worth of match fees, equipment purchases and travel, the Panthers were in need of financial help to get to their next stop. The team set up a GoFundMe asking the community for support and the funds came pouring in.

“We were kind of thinking we wouldn’t hit it until next week and it just kept flying in. We were halfway in like an hour. The support is there for us,” said Boleyn.

In about 12 hours, they hit their fundraising goal of $8,000 to cover the trip. An anonymous donor even provided the team a bus.

“It’s kind of unbelievable and surreal that we had this much support with a club program like this, but we love it and we’re trying to build for the future. That’s what we’re going to be able to do with this to continue the success down the road,” he added.

After not having a season last year, it’s been exciting for the Panthers to develop a team made up different athletes and introduce them to a relatively new sport. Their starting lineup features eight freshman.

“We really hit recruiting with the Iowa Youth Rugby Association popping up. We hit that hard and we were able to get a bunch of freshman to come in. They’ve made a great impact. I think the team chemistry has been unlike it has in the past,” said Boleyn.

After putting in the effort to get to this position, the Panthers are ready to show the east coast what this Midwest team is made of.

“We’ve got speed, we’ve got physicality. We’ve got Midwest rugby Iowa boys,” said Boleyn.

UNI will face Virginia in the first round on Friday at 1 P.M. winner advances to play on Sunday.

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