BELTON — Winless in four previous tries to defeat Wisconsin-Whitewater, Mary Hardin-Baylor doesn’t have to look far for motivation.
But just in case the second-ranked Crusaders (13-0) seek any extra motivation for their national semifinal showdown this week with the No. 5-ranked Warhawks (13-0), they needn’t look any further than their last game.
“I am an eternal optimist. I think with the way we played Saturday and the opportunity to host a game against a team we’ve never beaten, you couldn’t ask for a neater experience and challenge,” UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg said Monday. “After watching Saturday’s game (on film), I think us as coaches and players are really going to embrace this opportunity.”
The Crusaders were less than enamored with their performance in a 45-23 quarterfinal win over St. John Fisher (N.Y.).
Their chance for atonement comes at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, when UMHB hosts UW-Whitewater at Crusader Stadium, with a berth in the NCAA Division III national championship game at stake.
“We were very fortunate to get a win (last week) because we didn’t play very well,” Fredenburg said. “And we as coaches didn’t put together a good plan for our guys to go out and execute, and it showed up.
“We did some really good things. But you would hope in that environment that we would have done much better.”
One area in which the Crusaders shined was with their special teams, which have continued to provide points and big plays on a weekly basis.
In the quarterfinal win, Chad Peevey’s 75-yard punt pinned St. John Fisher at its 2-yard line and set up a safety. Peevey also made field goals of 47 and 36 yards, Tim Bower blocked a Cardinals extra-point attempt and Cody Jones intercepted and returned an SJF two-point conversion try.
“Chad Peevey is probably playing as well as anybody in the country as a kicker,” Fredenburg said. “What a tremendous weapon he is, and special teams are a big part of everything that we do.”
The Crusaders appear to be the healthiest they’ve been in a month.
Receiver Marcus Wimby and defensive end Korey Steward returned to action last week, and starting center Sterling Cantue — who missed the final 2½ quarters last week with a leg injury — is expected to be available for the semifinal.
“Sterling is fine,” Fredenburg said. “I think we’re healthy.”
After cold, wet conditions for two of the first three playoff games at Crusader Stadium, this weekend’s forecast calls for Saturday temperatures in the 60s and winds of only 9 mph.
“The Whitewater coach joked that he wanted some fans put on their sideline because it’s going to be downright balmy compared to what they’ve been playing in,” Fredenburg said.
The temperature in Whitewater isn’t expected to rise above 28 degrees at any point during the next 10 days, with lows forecasted below zero.
Advance tickets for the semifinal game will be sold at Gate One of Crusader Stadium. Season ticket holders can make purchases from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 7:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday. Tickets will be on sale to the general public from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to noon Friday. Online sales will begin at noon Wednesday.
Prices are $10 for reserved seats, $8 for general admission and $5 for students (ages 3-college).