Life and Lindenwood ready for rematch in 2024 D1 Elite National Championships from Phoenix

Fri, Apr 12, 2024, 9:31 PM
by Calder Cahill.
Griff Lacey / CRAA
Griff Lacey / CRAA

Since 2018, two universities have ruled the Women’s Division I Elite bracket of college rugby, the Lindenwood Lions and Life Running Eagles.

Meeting in the title game for the sixth consecutive time, the Lions have owned the win column each year, but the prediction isn’t so certain in 2024 as the Running Eagles look to cap off a dominant season. Splitting their regular season match ups 1-1, both programs land on the campus of Grand Canyon University for the latest championship bout, Sunday April 14 at 9PM ET, live on The Rugby Network.

Back to a fall and spring season, D1 Elite included five programs this year with the championship semifinals also featuring BYU and Central Washington, alongside regular season opponents Penn State. Grand Canyon (GCU) faced off with a few D1 Elite programs this year with goals of joining the elite level in the future. Expanded teams at the D1 Elite level is a primary goal for the College Rugby Association of America (CRAA) where the championship rematch is a kickoff to the new era and first since 2022. Each squad feature a treasure trove of top collegiate talent, with two of the four MA Sorensen Award Finalists in Matilda Kocaj (Life) and USA Eagle Freda Tafuna (Lindenwood).

Defending champion Head Coach, Trevor Locke said on the Lindenwood squad, “This year has provided a ton of opportunities for us to compete at a high level. That is what our team really relishes, the opportunity to play high level, high stakes matches. It's been awesome to watch the team find their way to this point from the coach’s perspective, we couldn't be more excited to watch them this weekend.”

Lindenwood went 9-2 against collegiate sides this year, including a cross-conference win over NIRA National Champion Dartmouth College in October. One of the two losses came in March, against Life. A massive match for the Lions to lean into both strategically and inspirationally when looking to make it six straight national title wins this Sunday.

Locke added, “The last match we played in March was a tight contest, but what better way to test ourselves in that type of environment with the score line ending the way it did. We look at it as a great learning opportunity on the way to a great matchup in the finals. Again, the team enjoys these chances to compete against one of the best in country, and the finals is always a great opportunity to show what we can do.”

Life Running Eagles Head Coach, Ryszard Chadwick has his team focused solely on Sunday in terms of the rematch, “Lindenwood have been the best team in what is 7+ years, they do pretty much everything well and are flawless in their game execution. They know how to win. I don't think the game we played against them at home a few weeks ago will have any effect on this final match. The reality is each game is different. We know if we want to win, we have to show up ready to play a fantastic team. It's that simple.”

Life U completed a near perfect record this season, their only loss coming in Saint Charles against Lindenwood, however back in October. Allowing only three points to Central Washington in the semifinal two weeks ago, the Running Eagles land in Arizona with momentum and hopes to cap off a memorable season on top of the podium.

Chadwick said about the 2024 group’s improvements and potential, “This squad is relentless in their pursuit of excellence. The program demands a lot from them and with such a big influx of freshman and players returning from long term injury, it's almost a completely different squad from last year. The team have learnt, pushed and supported each other to get to this point. Regardless of the result on Sunday, they know how much they have improved and developed since September. We are looking at some of the USA’s best U23 players on this team, the USA National Team has a bright future with these players coming through the ranks.”

The 2024 D1 Elite National Championships kickoff this Sunday, April 14th at 9pm ET – watch it all LIVE on The Rugby Network.