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Lindenwood locked in back-to-back Penn Mutual Women’s Collegiate Rugby Championship titles Sunday, beating Army 34-12 in the final at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia. The Lions were dominant throughout the tournament, conceding points exclusively in the final.
For Lindenwood, that’s become business as usual. The Lions have now won the CRC, USA Rugby’s 7s title and the D1 Women’s Elite championship in 15s two years running. They’ve won six major championships in two seasons, a feat with no rival.
For their part, the Black Knights were nearly as dominant throughout the event. Army, like Lindenwood, was a perfect 5-0 going into the final. They conceded points in one extra match, keeping a clean sheet through the quarterfinals. They were lead by Sam Sullivan, the tournament’s leading scorer. Despite her team finishing runner-up, she was deservedly awarded MVP.
Lindenwood’s star-studded lineup shined bright all weekend, with usuals like Annakaren Pedraza and Caring De Freitas showing out. But head coach Billy Nicholas singled out Teresa Beso and Charity Tenney has his top performers in the championship run.
To reach the final, the cadets had to go through former champion Penn State. The Nittany Lions answered the bell first when Azniv Nalbandian outran the field. At the restart, Penn State erred by kicking the ball into Army’s try zone, setting up a freekick at centerfield. As she did all weekend, Sullivan ran over and around several defenders to make it an even scoreline. Sullivan’s second try, coming at the close of the sixth minute, put Army on top, where they remained on halftime.
A yellow card to Elisha Fromstein just over a minute into the second half left the Nittany Lions a woman down for the early part of the half. A second yellow card for Penn State, this one shown to Darina Roe, made it five against seven. Naomi Colin’s try and the subsequent conversion by Bayleigh Gable made it 17–5 for the cadets. Completing her hat trick, Sullivan put Army too far in front for Penn State to catch up.
In their semifinal, the Lions blanked bitter rival Life, 31-0. The first points went to the Lions after Richelle Stephens broke loose to score just to the right of the posts. Then Kodi Barlow dotted down off a Life turnover. Frustrated at the inability to turn a minute spent at the Life five-meter line into Pedraza was shown a yellow card to make it seven-on-six rugby in favor of Life to close the first half and start the second.
Life threatened to capitalize on the player advantage, working within a meter of the try line before yielding a penalty and allowing Lindenwood to return to full numbers. In the end, Life never managed to erase the goose egg. Instead, it was a second try for Barlow and one for Tenney, making it 24–0 with just enough time for a restart. Lindenwood, despite the win in hand, played for more points and got them with Tenney’s second. After the conversion, the defending champions were on their way to the final.
There, they started with a quick seven points by way of Caring De Freitas and AnnaKaren Pedraza on the conversion. Midway into the fifth minute, Eleanor Burnett scampered in for Army’s first points. The conversion was off the mark, keeping Army two points down. Two minutes later, it was Sativa Tarau-Peehikuru dotting down in the left corner to restore Lindenwood’s seven-point advantage. Following the restart, Aniya Matina found an angle sufficient to extend the lead even further. Pedraza could not connect on the conversion, but still saw her side twelve points ahead at halftime.
Lindenwood took firm hold of the match in the first seconds of the second half when Bueso grounded the try for a 23–5 lead. The party in the try zone continued when Bueso made it a brace, capped with Pedraza’s conversion. With two minutes to go, the women who got the scoring started made it a double as De Freitas slid in for the score that advanced the lead to 34–5 with ninety seconds all that stood between the Lions and hoisting their second consecutive national championship. Kaitlyn Schwarting claimed Army’s first points of the second half with just enough time for a conversion and restart. Burnett drove home the conversion to make it 34–12. A penalty on the restart gave Lindenwood the chance to kick to touch to finish it.