The 2018 USQRA Wheelchair Rugby National Championship tournament took place at the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center in sunny Phoenix, AZ, April 19-21. 16 teams from around the country came together for the chance at the Division I and Division II championships.
The teams who would eventually make it to the Division I & II championship matches generally dominated pool play throughout the first two days. However, the most intriguing match during pool play was in Division I, the #1 University of Arizona Wildcats vs. #3 360 Heat. The highly anticipated meeting between these two teams did not disappoint, with the Wildcats winning by two points in overtime, 56-54.
The other contest of note during pool play was a 46-41 upset by the #4 Texas Stampede over #2 Minnesota.
The Division I semifinals saw the Ability360 Heat vs. the Texas Stampede, as well as the University of Arizona vs. Minnesota. Both Ability360 and the U of A emerged victorious and set up a rematch…this time for the Division I title.
On the Division II side of the tournament, the Grand Rapids Thunder and Northridge Knights were on a collision course to the championship match. Both teams left no doubt who belonged in the title match, as they dispatched every other opponent they faced along the way.
In the Division II championship, both teams played close early in the match. However, Lars Mertens of Grand Rapids put on a dominant defensive show and was the biggest difference in the match. He forced numerous turnovers, which led to points for the Thunder. In the end, Grand Rapids was too much for Northridge and won 58-52.
The energy surrounding the Division I championship was palpable. The Ability360 Heat were keen to avenge their Day 2 loss and defend their national title against the University of Arizona.
The match remained close throughout the first quarter, but a couple costly mental mistakes near the end of the first allowed the Wildcats to take command of the match.
Throughout the rest of the match, the Wildcats remained firmly in control and dominated the Heat. With a final score of 55-44, the University of Arizona Wildcats were named the 2018 USQRA Division I Champions.
Congratulations once again to the winners! It was a pleasure to provide commentary for the championship matches and we look forward to returning to the tournament next year in Rockford, IL!