Women’s D1 Elite National Championship Preview

Will it be two from two for Lindenwood, or will Life make up for last year's loss?

Lindenwood University and Life University will face each other in the Women’s D1 Elite National Championship game, for the second year in a row, this Sunday, April 7, at 12pm PT at Steuber Rugby Stadium at Stanford University. Both teams advanced through to the National Championships, after winning their respective semifinals at Furman University two weekends ago. A livestream will be available through USA Rugby’s Facebook Page and through usarugbytv.com.  

Anticipation for the match has been building in the camps over the course of the year, with each squad knowing what they are capable of, but it has come to a head since their qualification. However, despite the excitement about the chance to walk away from Sunday’s game with some silverware, the teams are tempering their excitement, knowing they haven’t achieved all they want to yet.

“Everyone is of course excited to play in a National Championship match at the highest level” said Billy Nicholas, Lindenwood’s head coach. “But we are even keeled in our training sessions. We have played some really high level matches this year against great opponents and next Sunday will be one of the same.”

Rosalind Chou, Life’s head coach echoed a similar sentiment, “The squad is focused on the next task, getting better and fine tuning parts of our game. We gave them a couple days off to recharge, and are working hard to be at our best come April 7th.”

Both squads had strong showings in their semifinals; and while they were two contrasting matches, both coaches have found things to take away from their impressive showings. For Nicholas, it was the way the team was able to display its chemistry on the field. “What we were happy with is how well we connected on the field and playing off one another. We still have some things to work on going into next weekend, but we were happy with the growth we've shown throughout the season.”

Chou, found out about Life’s character, “A match that always comes down to the wire always builds character,” stated Chou.  “We see areas that we struggled to have discipline, especially within our 22, and they showed a lot of resilience. We couldn't be more proud of them, they play for the jersey and each other and that's all we can ask.”

Each team is excited to face one another, with the programs harboring a healthy respect for another, despite the fact these two haven’t met since their previous National Championship encounter. Both teams, however, aren’t putting too much weight into that game, as the squads have changed vastly in the last 12 months; such is the nature of college sports. “To be honest we won't be drawing on last year's experience at all - ourselves and Life have pretty different rosters from year to year,” explained Nicholas. Chou was in agreement with Nicholas’ evaluation, “ Each year is different, so we're focusing on our team now, and what our strengths are, and how we can use them in this match.” 

Heading into the match both sides are stacked with talent, over seven internationals between the two squads, and have multiple players who change turn the game on its head in a split second. Despite the individual stars, both teams believe their success will come from their ability, on both sides of the ball, to turn 15 into one. Lindenwood, has a large senior class, who have helped build the program into the national power it now is, and Nicholas thinks the leaders that have developed on the team will help separate them from the competition on Sunday.

“We have some really good senior leadership on our team and they've been in this match before and came out successful,” noted Nicholas. “They'll help drive the vibes going into this match and being the last 15s match of the year, and last for many of our seniors, we expect the team go out and empty the tanks and stay in the moment, can't ask for much more than that as a coach.”

Chou’s team has plenty of experience, albeit not as much of their opponents, but believes the match will fall to whoever demonstrates the greatest composure. “In rugby, the team that can execute with the most precision under pressure is most likely the one that will have the most points on the scoreboard.” Chou will be hoping Life’s leaders can provide a calming influence.

The game will be played at a frantically high pace, and the scoreboard operators will be kept busy for the duration of the match. The opening passages of play could be very telling and if a team can build a quick lead, sucking the momentum away from the other squad, that could be all they need to secure the National Championship.