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Life Gears Up for 1st Varsity Season

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Life Gears Up for 1st Varsity Season

On July 1, the women’s team at Life University officially became a varsity program. Big changes lie ahead, not least among them the opportunity to offer more athletic scholarships, but coach Rosalind Chou isn’t rushing the growth of the young program.

Chou is fortunate to have Director of Rugby Dan Payne lending guidance.

“Take it slow,” Payne advised Chou, as she replicates the path Payne forged while building the men’s program. “You want to build it the right way, get the right athletes in.”

Chou has kept nine of the athletes who played for the Running Eagles’ spring team, which was then operating as a club team  and whose games in the South Independent Rugby Conference didn’t affect league standings. Chou has actively recruited another 10 athletes, who have received tuition scholarships and other perks like athlete housing. The July high school camp, which included seven athletes who have already committed to Life, also yielded some prospects.

“A great deal of the camp participants already has an eye on Life, because we’re regionally close,” Chou said. “I’ve already received five applications from the summer camp. There were some freshmen and sophomores, too, who I’ll be keeping tabs on.”

So where is Life’s new class coming from? There are a few transfer students, including backs Gracie Martinez and Kimberly Semiglia, who came from DII championship semifinalist Florida International University. Rachel Dorminy left North Georgia, and Naples, Fla., native Darian Lovelace left fellow varsity program American International College for Marietta, Ga. Of all the transfers, Christina Swift has the most clout. She hails from Florida Atlantic University and has gone on tour with Stars 7s, and been on the Serevi and Collegiate All American watch list.

Of the recent high school graduates, Cynthia Kelly has the most high-level experience, competing at the 2013 High School All American Stars & Stripes assembly. Karen Faget, originally from Argentina, has played all-star ball at the Florida Sunshine Games, while Jessica Regalado and Amber Cook do Texas proud.

The great thing about Life’s scholarship program is that the players have the opportunity to earn more financial assistance. Should a player make an all-american team, for example, that’s more money. And for returners like Sarah McCandless and Madison Ohmann – two important point scorers last season – their tallies may increase with their performance.

But one of the program's greatest benefits doesn’t have a dollar value. Chou asserted that the help and influence of the men’s staff and players have not only helped these developmental stages evolve smoothly, but their genuine interest and support have made the players’ experience enjoyable.

“During the summer camp, the men’s players were filling all the holes – cooking lunch, collecting gear – it’s just that kind of environment,” Chou said. “They’re playing touch with the girls, giving advice. Phil Thiel, a USA hooker, was helping out my 17-year-old hooker. Can you imagine!? It gives me chills how invested they are.”

Chou tipped her hat to Payne, whose been the engineer in building such an environment, and for coaches Tui Osborne and Scott Lawrence being equally as sincere.

Although Chou is indeed building slowly and using this fall season to gauge the team’s ability, the fall schedule starts with a big test.

“We play Quinnipiac on August 30,” Chou seemed to wince, knowing they'll be low on numbers. “It’ll be a marker for [the players]. It’ll be their first game as a varsity program, and we’ll be playing Quinnipiac, which is entering its fifth year as a varsity program. It’ll be eye-opening.”

The Running Eagles will play Eastern Illinois twice in the fall as well as regional DI and DII teams, perhaps the best being Lee University. The matrix season begins at the end of January 2015.