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Defending NIRA and D1 Elite Champions Face Off

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Defending NIRA and D1 Elite Champions Face Off

Photos Todd Lunow and Kyle Relf. Lindenwood and Dartmouth clash this weekend.

Let's have an argument.

The NIRA champion is stronger than the D1 Elite champion.

No, wait, that can't be. The D1 Elite top dog has way more bite.

Well, we can settle some aspects of this debate Saturday when two-time defending NIRA champs Dartmouth host five-time* D1 Elite champs Lindenwood (*five straight wins over six years as the 2020 championships were halted by COVID).

Dartmouth comes into this game not quite on top of the NIRA D1 standings—the Power Ratings have Harvard as #1, but both teams are undefeated. League wins over Army and Quinnipiac, plus a postponed match vs Princeton, are the sum total of Dartmouth's league games, while the Big Green have also defeated Penn State 79-0.

Led by Asialeata Meni's five tries and with Simone Bautista and Nicole Ihensekhien contributing four each, Dartmouth's biggest stat it probably their defense, which has given up just 22 points in three games.

This is clearly a different lineup than the one that claimed the last two NIRA titles. But it is still a formidable side.

For Lindenwood, too, there have been changes, but they do have plenty of stalwarts back. Last week, Lindenwood played Davenport, a fixture common for both men's sides but not so much for the women. Davenport is a NIRA team now and won that contest 27-14.

It was a relatively young Lindenwood team that played that game, but still a wakeup call for the Lions. Now they look at playing this NIRA/D1 Elite showdown. Does it matter?

Yeah, it matters, says coaches Trevor Locke and Colten Hernandez.

"This is definitely a big game," said Lindenwood Head Coach Trevor Locke. "This is the first time we have been able to play Dartmouth in 15s and the team couldn’t be more excited. We know they are a top-quality program and we will have to be at our best to be competitive. Colten and I are excited to see how top side goes for the first time this season."

Kickoff is 1PM ET and will be LIVE on ESPN+