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Fall’s Dense With DI Elite 15s Action

  • 05 Oct 2022
DI Elite rugby

The DI Elite moved its championship 15s season from spring to fall this year, and all four teams were active as of last weekend. Members will play each other across the next month-plus for seeding purposes, and then semifinals will be held Nov. 19 at the higher seeds. The national championship will be held Saturday, Dec. 3 in Charlotte, N.C.., alongside the College Rugby Association of America (CRAA) Fall Classic.

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Four-time defending national champion Lindenwood University has played three senior clubs so far, all on the road. The Lions scored just one first-half try against DII KC Jazz, as a big class of newcomers acquainted themselves with Lions rugby. But then some pieces fell in place second half for a 43-0 victory.

Two weeks later, Lindenwood rostered 10 freshmen against the Colorado Gray Wolves. Stellar leadership from veterans like Kapoina Bailey, Taina Tukuafu, Ahnea Aupiu, Amy Brice, Demi Allen and more steadied the performance, and produced a 66-7 win. Lindenwood alumna Selena Tuilaepa scored the Gray Wolves’ try.

“This year with the championship being in the fall versus the spring, we have a shorter amount of time to get to where we want to be with a lot more new athletes than returners to the team,” Bailey told Lindenwood Athletics. “I saw a lot of people step up during our match and we set our baseline, now we just need to get out there and keep working on our chemistry during our training opportunities.”

Lindenwood Rugby

Bailey at 2022 CRC 7s

On Sunday, the Lions traveled to the DI Chicago Lions and won 66-16. After three games, head coach Billy Nicholas has been able to get nearly the entire roster some field time. Now, the St. Charles, Mo., program will see its first DI Elite opponent – Life University – for its first home game of the season.

The Running Eagles, remember, are operating under new head coach Ryszard Chadwick, who has had to adjust to the season shift along with his players. The Marietta, Ga., squad is also 3-0, and opened with an 83-0 win against NCAA D2 program Lander University. The Running Eagles then repeated last year’s fall tour, heading first to Penn State for a Thursday night game then to New York – Chadwick’s former club – for a Randall’s Island match. Life beat the Nittany Lions 53-0 and then two days later defeated NYRC 40-17.

Brooklyn Vaifanua (2), Autumn LoCicero (2), Matilda Kocaj, Su Adegoke, Pepe Toomalatai and Adrionna Duncan all scored tries against Penn State, and Chadwick called out Eilidh MacGilvary for a standout performance. Last Saturday’s games flowed differently, as the collegians had to rally from a 17-5 halftime deficit. They displayed good grit in the comeback victory, with Amaya Moala providing inspiration and three tries.

Life Rugby

Autumn LoCicero during 2022 CRC 7s in May

Life and Lindenwood actually have a home-and-away series, with Life traveling this weekend with two sides, and then the Lions returning the trip on Nov. 12. Both teams will also play Central Washington in Ellensburg, Wash. Lindenwood heads west on Oct. 22 and Life follows on Nov. 5.

Central Washington played its first 15s match of the fall, and much like Life and Lindenwood, its first four games are all on the road. Last Saturday, the Wildcats traveled across the border to Univ. Victoria and took a 27-12 loss.

“For the prep time we had, I was very pleased with the continuity and phase play we put together,” second-year head coach Matt Ramirez told “Seven Wildcats made their debut today, and to step up against a team like UVIC was a tall challenge that was handled very well by the young group.”

CWU rugby

Central Washington Univ. vs. Lindenwood / Photo: Todd Lunow

The Canadians took a 22-0 halftime lead, and then Central won the second half 12-5. Mae Sagapolu and Tessa Hann scored, and first-year Jessica Postle kicked the extras. Now the team heads on a two-game tour out east, seeing Penn State on Thursday, Oct. 6, and then Navy in Annapolis on Oct. 8. On Oct. 15, the Wildcats will make their annual trip to BYU, which has just bid farewell to long-time head coach Tom Waqa, before hosting Lindenwood and Life.

Lindenwood and Penn State are the only teams that aren’t seeing each other prior to playoffs, but perhaps there is an expectation that the Lions will be seeded first and the Nittany Lions will be fourth, setting up a Nov. 19 semifinal in St. Charles. Whatever the case, Penn State has filled the rest of its schedule with opponents that play in NCR, CRAA, NIRA and USA Club Rugby. The team is 1-2 so far, defeating Michigan 67-5, losing to Queens University of Charlotte 41-19 and then Life most recently.

Penn State rugby

White at CRC 7s

After Central Washington comes to town, Penn State will play three senior clubs (DII Phoenixville, DI D.C. Furies, WPL New York), CRAA DI Virginia Women’s Rugby (aka, UVA), and NCAA D1 Army West Point. That’s nine games before the semifinals, a lot of field time for senior co-captains Kat von Abo and Camile White to ready the team for the post-season.

Lindenwood 43-0 KC Jazz
Lindenwood 61-7 CO Gray Wolves
Lindenwood 66-16 Chicago Lions

Life 83-0 Lander Univ
Life 53-0 Penn State
Life 40-17 New York

Univ. Victoria 27-12 Central Washington

Penn State 67-5 Michigan
Queens Univ 41-19 Penn State

Oct. 6
Central Washington @ Penn State

Oct. 8
Central Washington @ Navy
Life @ Lindenwood (x2)

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