Lindenwood The Elite of D1 Elite
Lindenwood The Elite of D1 Elite
There was certainly an inevitability about it all, but inevitability can be its own burden.
But the Lindenwood Lions women's rugby team carried that burden and kept on playing tough, open, exciting, and sometimes teeth-shattering rugby through the season. Saturday evening at Hunter Stadium the Lions capped it all off with a D1 Elite championship beating their heated rivals Life University 51-12 to take it all.
Through the season the Lindenwood 1st team won all six games, outscoring opponents 357 to 53, or an average of 60-9. Only once, in their season-opener against Life, did they allow more than two tries in a game. That game (a 39-17 win) was the low water mark for points scored, as well. Lindenwood's consistency of dominance could best be shown in their two victories over BYU, the first 77-5, and second 74-7—essentially the same score.
Saturday, behind a typically smooth and intelligent game from flyhalf Richelle Stephens and an MVP performance from freshman center Eti Haungatau, Lindenwood exploded toward an early lead and pretty much never looked back. That's not to say it was easy—Life didn't take a step backward and continued to battle in the contact area and show the rugby understanding to punish errors, but it was Lindenwood's night.
"In the first 10 minutes for both teams there’s a bit of jitters," said Lindenwood Head Coach Billy Nicholas. "For both teams you have the luxury of having some friends there to cheer you on, and it was a case of getting the nerves out. After that we settled in a bit. Overall I think we were pretty happy with how the first half went."
Lindenwood controlled the ball and not only controlled it, but did so while going forward.
"One of our big goals was starve the opposition of possession and we did that well," he said.
In the second half, Life crept back in it thanks in part to a yellow card against the Lions for a completely avoidable penalty.
"We were definitely a bit on edge, Life capitalized on the mistakes we made and then the yellow card, we started saying to ourselves 'we've got a match today.' But we did enough to stay ahead," said Nicholas.
Stephens in many ways, shone brightest. Her handling of the attack and her leadership were superb.
"She is one of the best facilitators in the women’s game," said Nicholas. "She just has that presence and if if she’s speaking they’re listening. She keeps everybody even-keeled and at the same time still runs a high-paced potent attacking structure."
In every game that Lindenwood played this season they used all 23 players on the roster. That speaks to how far ahead they were, but also to the quality of Lindenwood's depth.
"I was really pleased with how the finishers played in the final and in general I am not worried about our replacements," Nicholas said. "We've had the situation where for a lot of players they're not sure if they're playing or not, or starting or not, and that pressure has been a positive for us. However, that's partly due to our senior leadership. We had such a great combination of senior leadership this year which was easy for me to rely on, and they will be missed. It will be up to the younger players who had a chance to learn from those seniors to take on that leadership role as we go forward. It will be fun to see how they do that."
|D1 Elite Historical Champions|
|2020||Final Not Held|