Lindenwood returns to 15s for date with Twin Cities

BOULDER, Colo. - Lindenwood University's women's rugby team is emphasizing sevens this spring semester, but with the inaugural Women's Division I Elite Playoffs fast approaching, the Lions are making time for 15s this weekend with a friendly against Twin Cities Amazons.

This time last week, Lindenwood was in Las Vegas playing sevens - and playing very well. A 5-0 start in the Women's College division of the Las Vegas Invitational pitted the Lions against American International College in the Cup Final, but the Yellow Jackets ran in three tries to Lindenwood's one for the tournament championship.

"It's certainly a fun challenge to train in both 15s and sevens, as the core skills executed in either are the same," said Lindenwood Head Coach Billy Nicholas. "Strategically, it makes it difficult to flip-flop."

Difficulties aside, the Lions' coaching staff and roster are simply eager to be on the pitch playing high-level rugby, and less concerned which code being played.

"We are going to provide the athletes here versatility and as many opportunities in both 15s and sevens, no matter the flux of seasonality currently being worked out at the collegiate level," Nicholas said.

For a program as dedicated to testing itself as frequently as possible, there are few greater challenges than facing a perennial Women's Premier League power like the Amazons. Twin Cities were, once again, the class of the WPL's Red Conference, and finished third at the 2015 WPL Championship.

"Twin Cities has a very physical side, and, being a senior club side, they also have the experience, poise under pressure and increased knowledge of the game," Nicholas noted. "We know all of those areas will be a great challenge for us on Saturday to compete against, and we are excited for the opportunity to welcome such a strong team into town."

Although it is the Lions' first 15s match of 2016, the Amazons have only had a few training sessions since November's WPL Championship. Additionally, several WPL stalwarts take the spring season off, allowing greener players a chance to run with those with more experience. So, while Twin Cities are known as one of the more physical squads in the country, it is not exactly expecting to dominate that area of the game.

"I have seen some very aggressive college sides that are fearless," said Amazons Head Coach Roger Bruggemeyer. "So, sometimes the difference isn't as great as you would assume. I would hope we would excel in this area, but, given it's our first game and our lack of contact, fitness will probably dictate this aspect of the game."

Nicholas and his staff were extremely impressed with the entire group that earned a 5-1 mark in Las Vegas, and his loose forwards and back line players that excelled in Sin City will surely have their say in Saturday's friendly. However, he is excited to see how his tight five will respond to Twin Cities' sturdy and well-drilled forward pack.

"Our forwards captain, junior Laura Enk, and senior Morgan Crowell continue to impress and grow into their roles," Lindenwood's lead man said. "As well as a very physical freshman, Lia Fetineiai-Ili, at the lock position."

After its contest against the Amazons, Lindenwood's juggling act shifts back to sevens, as the team will host the March 19 Lions 7s - an automatic qualifier for the 2016 USA Rugby College 7s National Championships.