The Lindenwood men's and women's teams captured the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championships on Sunday at Chester's Talen Energy Stadium. It's the first time in the history of the tournament that the same school's men and women came away with titles.
The women came within inches of not even making the Cup final. In the semifinals against Life University, the Lions stopped a Life player right before the ball hit the try zone as time expired, escaping with a 17-14 victory. Lindenwood, based in St. Charles, Mo., had lost in the Cup final the last three years, and to Life in the last two.
"It was a familiar sight," coach Billy Nicholas said of the recent matchups with Life. "Those games [against Life] always go right down to the wire."
The Lions carried that momentum into the final less than two hours later, defeating Penn State, 21-12. Nicholas said he focused on three things to avoid a letdown in the final, as Life was considered Lindenwood's stiffest competition.
"For us, we focused on the controllable factors," Nicholas said. "We have the ability to control our energy, control our communication, and control our discipline."
Kodie Barlow opened the scoring for Lindenwood, but Penn State's Rachel Ehrecke answered immediately with a try of her own. Annakaren Pedraza and Caring DeFreitas finished off the scoring with tries for Lindenwood.
The Lindenwood men's defeated Navy, 22-0, in the quarterfinal round, then Life in the semifinals, 17-7, and finished off UCLA in the final, 24-7.
Chris Schoeman scored first for Lindenwood on a breakaway down the sideline. After UCLA's Benjamin Broselle scored a try, Nick Feakes, Deion Mikesell, and Nick Taylor scored a try apiece to ice the game for the Lions.
The Lions came into the tournament fresh off a title in the USA Rugby college sevens national championship two weeks ago against the University of California, regarded as one of the best rugby teams in the country.
"We were confident [coming into the tournament], but it's hard to win two big tournaments like that back-to-back," coach Josh Macy said, "And to be honest, on day one, that Philadelphia heat and crowd got to us.
"The second day, we kind of got our legs under us and our momentum started to build. We just carried it through all the way to the final."
In local action, Penn State's men lost to Life, 12-5, after advancing to the Cup quarterfinals as an eighth seed.
St. Joseph's men defeated Wisconsin in the Plate quarterfinals, 29-12, and lost to Army in the semifinals, 24-12.
Temple's men beat Boston College in the Bowl quarterfinals, 21-12. The Owls fell to Air Force in the semifinals, 19-15.