LAFEYTTE, Colo. – Few teams in college rugby had a better fall season than Indiana. After going undefeated on their way to a Big Ten Universities Conference Championship, and adding wins against No. 6 Davenport and No. 9 Kutztown to their résumé, the Hoosiers are staring at their biggest challenge of the season – a D1A Quarterfinal match against No. 3 Lindenwood.
After blowing out Wheeling Jesuit in the opening round of the Playoffs, Lindenwood must get past Indiana in order to reach its third consecutive D1A Semifinal. The Lions boosted their chances of a road win over the BTU Champions after getting plenty of their starters a rest against the Cardinals.
“We were very fortunate to get everyone in the match,” assistant coach James Harrison said after Lindenwood unloaded its bench by the 60th minute last week. “If we can distribute the work load across the full 23, it will pay dividends this weekend. Wheeling Jesuit were some very hard ball carriers and tough tacklers, getting the reserves on the pitch was necessary to avoid injuries.”
The Lions should not only be fairly rested, but also confident. Prior to putting up 89 points on Wheeling Jesuit, Mid-South’s second-place team hadn’t scored more than 21 points in a contest since its Feb. 13 win over Florida State.
“This weekend was not our usual weekend – the Mid-South is a pretty low-scoring conference,” said Harrison. “We were able to get a few bounces our way, and the ball moved quite well across the width of the pitch. The boys know this is not always the case, and we need to prepare for the next match with the same intensity and to expect the worst.”
Anticipating more resistance from Indiana would be wise. The Hoosiers possess one of the best back lines in the country, including line-breaking center Bryce Campbell and wings Jake Hidalgo and Teddy Terezis. In fact, the backs were so dangerous at times this season the team’s hardworking group of forwards, which includes All Big Ten Forwards Tyler Graham and Travis Katona, have been relatively overlooked – just not by Lindenwood.
“They are big and tough up front – very strong and physical,” noted Harrison. “This will definitely cause some issues for us, and will test our boys up front.”
Indiana’s buildup towards the Playoffs has consisted of more positive results. Utilizing their depth and mixing reserves with first XV players, the Hoosiers picked up one-sided wins against Notre Dame, Middle Tennessee, Wheeling Jesuit, Western Michigan, and Southern Indiana. Indiana did, however, deal with its first defeat of the season when a short-handed Hoosier side fell to No. 7 Penn State in March.
“Putting things into perspective, the boys took it well knowing it would have been a better game if everyone from the team played,” explained Indiana Head Coach Sarasopa Enari. “It was what it was, we went with it and learned a few things from that game.”
Even with the loss to the Nittany Lions, Indiana can draw confidence from its win over the Mid-South’s Davenport. While Enari described the victory over the Panthers as a “good challenge,” he and his staff know the Lions are capable of playing at a very high level.
“Lindenwood seems to be on a roll right now,” Enari said. “They have played more quality games as of late, and they look physical and want to run with the ball.”
The winner of the April 23 D1A Quarterfinal to be played on the campus of the Indiana University will play the winner of Saturday’s Playoff game between Davenport and Life in D1A Rugby’s April 30 Semifinals.