All Eyes On Games At Lindenwood
All Eyes On Games At Lindenwood
All eyes are on the campus of Lindenwood University this weekend as the #1-ranked Lions host two collegiate teams of note.
New program Marian University will visit St. Charles to make the team’s first official game as a new varsity program. This won’t be easy as Marian is just getting it all put together and while a talented side, will have a tough job of it against Lindenwood.
The Lions will run a 2nd side against Marian, but the difference between Lindenwood’s 2nd side and its 1st is minimal. Marian Head Coach John Harley will have his work cut out for him.
But it will be interesting to see how this new program shows after some months of training but no games.
Meanwhile, a top-of-the-rankings clash is set up for Saturday evening with #1 Lindenwood hosting #4 Central Washington. The good news is that both teams have made it through their COVID testing without any positive tests, so that’s one hurdle.
“It’s important to get those tests back clean,” said Lindenwood Head Coach Josh Macy, who added that his team has been very focused on making sure those tests state negative. “I’ll put it this way—our post-game work flow looks very different.”
That makes sense as evidence is mounting that it is social interaction away from sports that is resulting in college athletes testing positive.
Macy will be moving some players around in part because of some injuries and also because he wants to.
“We need to develop some depth and we’re in the middle of a kind of Murderer’s Row of games right now. Even the weekend where we didn’t play Davenport we played a full-on intrasquad scrimmage. We’re kind of feeling those games now,” Macy said.
Many of those players will get some time against Marian, while there is only one major change against CWU—Venezuelan back rower Juan Mota Sanchez has worked his way into the starting lineup. A hardworking, intense flanker, he will get his chance against a Wildcats team eager to show well.
“We’ve played Central Washington before and Todd [Thornley] is a coach I admire,” said Macy.
Thornley has been hard at work trying to keep control of the emotional level of the team. They are eager, very eager, to play as they haven’t played a real game in a year.
“I told them we don’t have a game Monday, we have a game Saturday,” Thornley said, laughing. “But you also want to ride that emotion a little bit, just as the right time. We cooled off a little then we had a good blowout on Wednesday. The guys are really excited about it—not just the game, but having a Game Week. First and foremost we’re just happy to play.”
But there is a bit about playing well, too. Central Washington was in the middle of one of its best season when the 2020 spring season was halted due to COVID. Frustrated at not being able to prove more, the Wildcats also acknowledged that everyone else was in the same boat. They just had to get on with doing what they could do.
It’s been less than four weeks since they were allowed normal rugby practices, and while the University has been enormously supportive, they are possibly a little undercooked.
So much will depend on their leadership.
“We have a very good, talented, committed group,” said Thornley, who will be looking especially to prop Ivan Pula and center Jack Wendling. Both are local products, with Pula having played at Budd Bay in the Olympia, Wash. area, and Wendling having played at Chuckanut 160 miles north in Bellingham. Pula, who will be getting his Master’s in Law & Justice after only four years at the school is a hardworking prop who doesn’t say much, but speaks volumes with his effort level, attention to details, and the few words he says.
Wendling is more vocal, and the two work well to get the Wildcats on task, and add to that the tireless Alex Cleary and powerful No. 8 Alex MacKenzie (also Washington state products), and you’ve got a pretty good leadership group.
They will be facing a Lindenwood team enjoying a lights-out season (so far) from flyhalf Evan Williams, and some solid leadership up front from lock Emmanuel Albert. The Eagan, Minn. product is a tough-minded player who is one of the most physical on the team and is the lineout caller and leader.
“In our small group tackling drills every Tuesday, he is basically the judge, jury, and executioner of the toughest group that guys are trying to work into,” said Macy. “Not for the faint of heart. “
Not for the faint of heart … that could be the description of this game.
(This game will likely be live-streamed. We'll have details on that here when it's available.)