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Life At Lindenwood Kicks Off Women's D1 Elite Season

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Life At Lindenwood Kicks Off Women's D1 Elite Season

Life and Lindenwood are longtime rivals. Colleen McCloskey photo.

The D1 Elite season kicks off this weekend with Life University at Lindenwood in what will be an intriguing kickoff to a tight but highly competitive year.

As has been the case in previous years, Life, Lindenwood, Penn State, and Central Washington will compete in the Women's D1 Elite. In addition, BYU will be part of the postseason. BYU wanted to stay in its women's D1 conference simply because the Cougars wanted the games. But it's also clear that BYU is stronger than many of the non-varsity club teams they play, and so for a postseason they will face off with the rest of the D1 Elite programs.

Grand Canyon might also get into this mix. but for now, we've got the one game to worry about. Life and Lindenwood were set to clash in the 2019-2020 D1 Elite postseason but of course the COVID Pandemic shut all that down. They did meet on October 13, 2019, a game Lindenwood won in impressive fashion 41-5. They also faced off on April 7, 2019 in the D1 Elite championship game, with Lindenwood winning 36-19.

There are still players who remember those games. 

"We are very much relying on leadership from our large number of veterans this season to take ownership of the program," said Lindenwood Head Coach Billy Nicholas. "We have our highest number of senior graduates, at 17, earning their diplomas this May and every one of them played a major role in developing and contributing to the culture within our program."

Among those are Olympian Richelle Stephens, Caring De Freitas (who scored a try in that 2019 final), Morgan Freeman (who scored in the Lions' last meeting with Life), and Meg Gold. All of those are backs who will test the Life defense. Up front, Nina Tuilaepa, Natalie Gray, Isabel Manu, Alia Ah Far, and Kate Yeomans all provide game knowledge and physical strength.

A year behind are some experienced players, too, with Sativa Tarau-Peehikuru, Mckenna Strong, Destiny Arena, Charity Tenney, Samantha Tancredi, Moira Dillow, Selena Tuilaepa, and Annie Rolf all ready to contribute and all slated to be back next season too.

"Preparation has been a bit different for the match this week, with much of the country getting an unexpected hit of snow we have had to change things up a bit, be flexible with our time together and space available," said Nicholas. "But adapting is just something preach to the team about and why it's important on and off the field, they'll be no excuses come Saturday, at the end of the day we are just very grateful to be playing rugby again. 

"We have a strong group of younger players that are really maturing and making that transition to the speed and tempo of collegiate play. That group along with our incoming recruits are going to be the next to lead this program and they'll bring their own flair and style of play and it's going to make an exciting transition to be a part of. The key for our culture is having our veteran players take the time and effort to share the values and standards they've established day after day over the past few years so the newer players feel value in what they represent beyond just themselves."

Coming in from Georgia, Life is also champing at the bit to play.

"We are all just really excited to get out and play somebody who isn't us," said Life Head Coach Roslaind Chou. "We've had to make adjustments in how we train and how we travel and even how we do team meals. But everyone is ready to do that because we're just so excited to play."

Life has seen some roster changes with a group of exciting new freshmen and also a couple of transfers.

Leading the team, though, will be Kayla Pemasa, who is in only her second year but has been looking very good, and junior Jess Keating, a solid goalkicker and playmaker, and hooker Saher Hamdan, who was named to the USA Women's 15s World Cup training squad despite never being capped. Much will be expected of them, and perhaps even more from captains Sylina Flowers, who will lead the forwards, and the always dangerous Sydnee Cervinski, who is loaded with pace and power.

Like Lindenwood, Life has a strong group of juniors to bolster the leadership group, notably Susan Adegoke, Adrionna Duncan, and Autumn Locicero. 

While Lindenwood has had the upper hand the last couple of meetings, and will be at home, Life is coming in with an intensity and desire that, if the Lions aren't careful, will shake things up.

"Competition has been really high among the players on campus," said Chou. "Now all we need to do is play every minute together."

The season begins.

Current D1 College Schedule As Of 2/19/2021
(Subject to change)
2/20 Life at Lindenwood D1 Elite
2/27 BYU at Central Washington D1 Elite
3/6 Lindenwood at Life D1 Elite
3/6 Central Washington at Grand Canyon Crossover
3/13 Central Washington at BYU D1 Elite
3/14 Penn State at Lindenwood D1 Elite
3/20 Penn State at Life D1 Elite
3/20 Lindenwood at Central Washington D1 Elite
3/20 BYU at Grand Canyon Crossover
3/27 Central Washington at Life D1 Elite
3/27 Lindenwood at BYU D1 Elite
4/10 D1 Elite Semis at TBD D1 Elite
4/24 D1 Elite Final at TBD D1 Elite