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New-Look Life Wins 2 at Penn State

  • 28 Sep 2018
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Photo: Meredith Nelson / MEAN Photography (see more)

Life University kicked off its two-stop tour with two wins over Penn State. The varsity side rallied from a 16-point deficit to win 29-26, and the JV side rode that momentum to a 38-0 victory. The Running Eagles are now heading toward West Point, N.Y., for a pair of games against the Black Knights.

Life upset Penn State in last year’s DI Elite semifinals, 17-15, and did it with a team that featured the program’s first four-year class and six tremendously important players. They’ve since moved on – many are playing with the Atlanta Harlequins’ WPL team – and 17 new faces were added to the roster this year.

“Honestly, it was pretty loose and relaxed,” Life University head coach Ros Chou said of the team’s mindset against Penn State. “When you feel like a new team, these experiences are all new to you. They didn’t really show any nerves.”

Quite the opposite actually. Summer Harris Jones and Alex Sedrick scored tries for a quick 10-0 lead.

“The first quarter we came out like gangbusters. We scored two tries in seven minutes,” Chou said. “We came out pretty sharp but in the second and third quarters, we lost them for a bit. We were lax on defense, lack of a launch, and with a team like Penn State, which is so fundamentally sound and so experienced, you can’t afford lapses.”

Penn State scored two tries and took a 12-10 lead into halftime. Two quick tries after the break gave the home team a 26-10 lead with most of the second half to play.

“We had discussed game management and getting our heads back in the game, but of most that was being focused on defensive launch and finishing tackles,” Chou recalled the halftime chat. “We had some handling errors, too, so we weren’t taking care of the ball. Megan Rom and Morgan Crossfield had some nice, long breaks, but the support wasn’t there and the ball turned over. So we were missing some opportunities.”

Some tactical subs were made with approximately 25 minutes left in the match, and Chou pointed to those players as vital to the comeback.

“Paige Fallon, Susan Adegoke, Lekia Haynes and Jesah Haun made a huge impact coming in,” the coach said. “They’re all extremely fast and have go-forward, and putting all of them in was a huge game-changer.”

That lift allowed Harris Jones and Haynes to score tries, and with Whitney Wilson’s conversion, the Running Eagles trailed 26-22 in the fourth quarter. The final score came through Sedrick and Wilson added the extras for the 29-26 final.

“They came back from more than a two-try deficit. There was no look of fear in their eyes. ‘We have to do what we have to do,’” Chou said. “It’s a positive indication that this is a very resilient group that can push each other and be positive and finish a game.”

Chou saved special praise for the tight five, which was traveling light. Ally Gallagher was in Japan with the USA Falcons, hooker Karissa Lacey was absent, and Ravyn Santiago is joining the squad for Army. That meant lock Crossfield and hooker Jade Garcia had to, for the first time, play a full 80 minutes in a varsity match, and Chou was impressed with how they performed.

“We know it’s early in the season. Penn State is so well coached and still building depth, and we’ll both grow into the spring,” Chou weighted the win. “We know this is just the competition we need to face and it makes this trip worth every minute – especially for the young group. They’re so excited to have the opportunity.”

The JV squad had been watching the varsity game, and everyone – including the Life staff – was so rapt with the action, that JV warm-ups didn’t begin until the final 10 minutes of the varsity game.

“A couple of players who finished the [varsity] game started the next game. Paige Fallon immediately got three penalties because she was so amped,” Chou laughed. “Everyone was just so excited and pumped all of that adrenaline into the JV game.”

Life JV tore away for a 38-0 win, and Chou highlighted players like Sam Holmes, Ashley Ward, Autumn Locicero, Hannah Boekelman, Adegoke and Fallon as standouts.

“Tatum Johnson, a sophomore, played 9 and was extremely physical,” Chou said. “Everyone’s competing for positions, so when they get out there, they want to show what they can do.”

Adegoke, Johnson, Locicero, Holmes, Adrionna Duncan and Kailynn Hampton scored, with Emilie Cunnington kicking conversions.

Life is spending the day in New York City, as a third of the touring squad has never experienced the Big Apple. Two of the assistant coaches are locals, as are a couple of current players, so they’ll act as tour guides. Then the group of 34 will maneuver closer to West Point and have dinner with the Heavners (Corinne, who is a graduate assistant at Life and currently plays for the WPL Harlequins, is a Penn State graduate). After the game against Army, Chou, Kitt Ruiz and Heavner will remain in New York for the Atlanta Harlequins vs. New York WPL match.

Life #DIElite

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