BOULDER, Colo. – Achieving three National Championship appearances in a row is a great accomplishment in any sport. To do so with two different coaches, which Life University’s rugby team has done, speaks to the amazing culture that has been established there. Now, with the departure of Head Coach Andrew ‘Tui” Osborne, and the loss of key players like Glen Maricelli, and Jake McFadden, the Running Eagles start their 2015-16 campaign with the same goal in mind, winning the National Championship.
Life plays their D1A schedule in the spring, but that doesn’t limit their training and preparation to one semester. They use the fall and winter to ready themselves for the grind that is the Mid-South.
The team uses two different areas for players to find time on the pitch during the offseason. One way is through the JV side, who plays matches against local club sides, and a match against Clemson’s JV side. The team went undefeated this fall, and will pick it up again on January 23rd when they take on a talented Atlanta Old White side.
“The JV season has been very useful for us this fall as we build our depth chart,” said Life Head Coach Scott Lawrence.
The second way for Life to get their players game minutes during the fall is letting some of its elite players take the field with Life’s club rugby team. The club side plays in the American Rugby Premiership, and plays club teams up the East Coast.
“If we were selfish we’d say having a handful of players play invitational games during the course of a prep period isn’t necessarily ideal for their periodization and in building continuity going into the D1A season,” said Lawrence. “However our focus is on development of our student-athletes and part of development is the chance to see different environments, receive alternative coaching, and execute various tactical approaches.
We are fortunate to be able to reward some of our players with a chance to go play in some places they wouldn’t normally play and enjoy the chance to compete in a more wide open competition than the tight games we expect week and week out in the Mid-South.”
Life’s varsity side played one match this fall, a, 43-0, victory over Clemson. The Tigers played tough against Life, but weren’t able to keep up with the Running Eagles for the entire match, as Life ran away with the match in the second half.
In what is considered a transition year for Life, they still have the national championship on their mind. Their first recruiting class either just graduated, or are in their last year of eligibility. Losing players like Maricelli and McFadden, who were part of the first recruiting class at Life, will be hard, but talented players are rooted in Life rugby. Two-time All American Lock Jake Anderson returned to Marietta for his senior season. Harley Davidson brings speed, and toughness to the backline, and has the makings to be a leader for this side. Zander Van Schalkwyk and Estevan Florez are also stepping up and leading for example, showing the younger players how hard you have to work to make it to the national championship.
“This is certainly a transition year for Life U Rugby in more ways than one,” said Lawrence. “Departures of senior leaders are always difficult, but we are fortunate to have other upperclassmen who have come through our development environment and are ready to step up and take the lead themselves.”
The Running Eagles will play two matches before they start their four match slate against the Mid-South. They will host South Carolina on January 30th, a D1-AA side that lost in their Southeastern Conference Championship match by one point. Life will then play Clemson once more before their first Mid-South games of the 2016 season, starting with Lindenwood on February 27th.