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Can Lindenwood pull off the double... or maybe even the double-double? It's a distinct possibility.
After the LU men's and women's teams swept the USA Rugby Collegiate Sevens Championships recently, both Lions teams move on to the Collegiate Rugby Championship this weekend at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA. For the men's squad, which won its second straight championship and beat Cal in the final, it's all part of what has been a pretty successful season.
"We didn't really have much difficulty coming off 15s and getting ready for sevens," LU head coach Josh Macy said. "We took a week to get away from it, and fortunately that coincided with finals week and graduation, so they didn't really see me for a whole week."
Things got messy at training today... pic.twitter.com/DDGKTRKnGM— Lindenwood Rugby (@LURugby) May 25, 2018
But the morning after graduation, the team was back into two-a-days and getting ready to travel to Glendale, CO, for the USA Rugby Sevens.
"They needed a physical recovery, but they also needed a mental recovery. They got to not hear my voice for a week," Macy said. "The thing about sevens is, it is a different game, and this is a whole different season for them."
Lindenwood dominated in Glendale. The closest game was the final, a 26-14 defeat of Cal. That game was telling in a number of ways. The Bears were the only team to even score on the Lions, which tells you all you need to know about their defense.
"We did play good defense, but I think we can do better and we've identified some things we can improve on for the CRC," Macy said. "But there are different ways to prevent a team from scoring, and for us, it was more score and win the restart. If they don't have the ball, then they can score. And it worked."
What the stats don't tell you is how Lindenwood handled it emotionally. Rugby tournaments are littered with the bodies of teams that rolled through early games only to implode when someone had the temerity to score on them. Lindenwood didn't implode, or fold, or point fingers. Twice Cal scored a try and came within a score of Lindenwood, and twice LU went right back to score and boost its cushion.
That is how the Lions became champions.
Nick Feakes was named the MVP, but there were accolades to go around. There will be this weekend, too. The one-two punch of Lorenzo Thomas and Deion Mikesell, who have grown physically and mentally over the season, didn't hurt. Christian Rodriguez went from a finisher to someone who set up others for tries. And Wes White has been a beast all year.
That's not to take anything away from the Lindenwood women's team. The two programs supported each other in tandem.
National Champs getting in a morning sess to start the day. Rest of the day off for recovery pic.twitter.com/014RSlzEWS— LU Womens Rugby (@LUWomensRugby) May 22, 2018
The women were the men's team's loudest cheering section on Saturday, and then the men's squad scheduled its recovery so it could be in the stands for the women's team.
"We work together and support each other," Macy said.
And maybe they will lift trophies together again.