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With the D1A National Collegiate Championship quarterfinal round in the Midwest and the East set for this Saturday, Davenport is at Life and Indiana hosts Lindenwood. Each team has a shot at making the Final, so competition to advance to the semifinals will be fierce.
Life made it to the Final last June and was inches from the tryline when St. Mary’s poached the ball for the win. Life is back again and will attempt to represent its university in the championship one more time. Its adaptive style creates havoc for its opponent and makes use of constructive ball movement on attack.
This season, the maturation of the young players has been key for Life. Head coach Scott Lawrence has attributed the success to coach Colton Cariaga. “The holistic player development process by Colton Cariaga has been a big value add for us.”
This Saturday, Life will face a familiar foe. “It's the third time we've played Davenport this season,” Lawrence said. “They are really coming on toward the end of the year. Fantastic athleticism and skill at #7 (Dominique Bailey) and #12 (Wally Grinager). Any team has to be ready for them physically and cover the threats immediately around the carrier. Davenport is built for playoff rugby. We expect they'll do the basics very well and challenge the space behind our defensive line.”
Davenport will bring its blue collar, workmanlike attitude to Marietta, Ga. on Saturday looking to grind out an upset. The Panthers are facing an uphill battle and will trust in the play of Anthony Welmers, Mike Houston, Dom Bailey, Kevin Lydon, Connor Schilling, and Brady Gent to take them to victory.
Head coach James Wood has the understanding that their conference record is not an accurate evaluation of their capability on the national level. What Davenport first needs to accomplish is to defeat the Running Eagles. “Life is good. They play fast, are very disciplined and make few major mistakes. Life plays so well as a unit, you have to gameplan for them as a whole. It's not one guy who beats you when it comes to Life, it’s 15 guys all working in unison off the same script.”
“It's going to be a tough task, but if we can bring our A game for 80 minutes, who knows, rugby can be a funny game sometimes,” Wood added. “[Life is] very tough, well-coached competition. I'm also expecting us to finally show up and play to our potential against them, but I'll have to wait and see if we can make that happen.”
On Saturday in Bloomington, Ind., the Big Ten Conference Champion, Indiana, will host Lindenwood, who blew out Wheeling Jesuit, 89-5, in the D1A Opening Round. Indiana crushed the Big Ten in the fall and its only loss of the spring was to Penn State in March. With the bye weekend, Indiana should be well rested to play the Lions.
The Hoosiers were well represented on the Big Ten All-Conference team with center Bryce Campbell, wings Jake Hidalgo and Teddy Terezis, and forwards Tyler Graham and Travis Katona. Each has had their contributions felt on the field and head coach Sopa Enari has his team ready for Lindenwood.
Lindenwood will use its first round victory over Wheeling Jesuit to springboard its way to the semifinals. The Lions like to play at a high tempo using their athletic forwards to attack with width. “The boys have been putting in the work on the field and in the weight room,” assistant coach James Harrison said. “In order to make a playoff run, a team has to be able to push through the grind. We are just happy to be where we are and we are going to continue to push through the grind.”
With Indiana on Saturday, the Big Ten Champ does not intimidate the Lions. “We know Indiana has some very tough, strong forwards,” Harrison stated. “We will definitely have to plan for a tough game in the scrum and around the breakdown. We expect a tough battle in the trenches at Indiana. The strong forwards of Indiana will create problems during the match.”
“We are excited about the opportunity to compete in the quarterfinals,” Harrison added. “Indiana will be hungry on their home pitch. We will have to fight every minute if we want to have a chance at advancing.”