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How Being a True Team Helps Life and Navy

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How Being a True Team Helps Life and Navy

Navy and Life from earlier this season. Photos David Hughes.

Life is at Navy for the D1A Eastern semifinal and these two teams have already met; in fact, that original meeting was a big deal.

Navy won that game, and the scoreline, 20-14, was one of their closest games of the season.

For Life, it was a turning point. The Running Eagles started their season somewhat later than most teams in the Rugby East, and in fact their October 7 meeting with the Midshipmen was only their fourth gameday—including a scrummage against the Life men’s club and an intrasquad scrumming. The only collegiate game they played before Navy was a 42-21 defeat of Mary Washington.

They were still, then, finding their way, and in fact, the loss to Navy was a milepost along the way.

“That loss actually was the catalyst for some change in our team as a whole,” said Life DOR Blake Bradford. “We learned some good lessons.”

Those lessons were taught by a Navy team that had been on a roll for over a year. 

“We were playing a team that’s really disciplined and sticks to their plan,” said Bradford. “We learned what can happen when you stick to your plan. We also learned a lot about what we needed to do in our maul defense. Navy mauls really, really well, and we found out we needed to be better to stop it.”

So it’s a new Life University team that marched on through the rest of the season. 

Players were moved around, certainly, but most of this development was mental. They dialed in just a bit more. The result was a series of quite impressive victories, including a 30-15 win over BYU. 

And what about Navy? This is largely the team (with one or two changes of course) that won D1A in 2023. And in fact it is that fact that keeps them going.

“It’s not really about winning,” said Navy DOR Gavin Hickie. “It’s just that these guys want to stick together for as long as possible. They have this really cool chemistry and they just want to keep this competitive season going. They have a history together.”

The seniors on the Navy team came to Navy during COVID. They became a team on Zoom calls. Now those seniors, that leadership group, is going to be officers in the US Navy. But they want it all to last as long as possible. You think about these players where everything they do is measured; everything they do is evaluated; there’s always someone looking over your shoulder. So training, playing the game, is freedom from that.”

Life is at Navy in the semifinal at the Prusmack Rugby Center at the US Naval Academy. Kickoff is at noon and will be shown live here>>