Will Brooks Press Release Header 2022

Women's Rugby D1a Elite National Championship 2024


Phoenix, Arizona – April 16, 2024 – Sunday evening, the Life University Women’s Rugby team made history by earning a hard-fought victory over long-standing rival Lindenwood University to be crowned the D1 Elite National Champions for the first time in program history.

In an emotional rollercoaster of a night, the Running Eagles fell behind in the first half after conceding the game’s first 17 points before eventually breaking through with a try in the 24th minute. A Nina Mason breakthrough down the middle led to the team’s second score, as Emma Haughey’s score continued to cut into the Lindenwood lead. The Running Eagles maintained pressure and took no time capitalizing on their next possession, charging down the field and scoring again as MA Sorensen finalist Matilda Kocaj dove into the try zone to score the final Life U try of the half in the 35th minute. Despite scores and a small shake in momentum, it was Lindenwood 22, Life U 19 at halftime.

In the second half, Lindenwood again capped off an attack with a try, and after their conversion, they extended their lead to 29-19. Subsequently, the Running Eagles marched back down the field and broke through with a sustained attack with Lissa Salisbury earning the try. Nina Mason slotted the extras, and it was a nailbiter once more with Life U trailing 29-26.

Another try for Lindenwood pushed them farther ahead, but a penalty against the Lions 40 meters out put Mason back up to kick where she had no problem punching into the lead 34-29.

Life University’s punch was countered once again though, as Lindenwood responded by scoring another try that extended their lead to 41-29.

In Life U’s next possession, a perfect pass to an onrushing Mercie Vavao provided the Running Eagles their next try. Then, as full time approached, Life U continued to fire on offense by opening their attack and forcing Lindenwood to scramble. Superb patience, a refusal to turn the ball over and a disciplined sustained attack eventually saw Danie Taulua up and over. Again, Mason’s kick was good, and it was even at 41-41.

With time winding down and the entire season on the line, there were just a few minutes to crown a champion. Lindenwood worked their way forward first, but stonewall defending eventually led to the desired turnover. When the Running Eagles got the ball, a deep punt down the field was fielded, and a tackle from Kocaj drew out a Lindenwood penalty.

Now in the 77th minute, the Running Eagles again put their faith in Mason. Cool, calm and collected, the Pennsylvania native stepped up and drilled the matching-winning kick, giving Life U the 44-41 advantage.

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It was an unlikely win, a true display of grit and character, and a demonstration of resilience and perseverance. Postgame, Head Coach Ryszard Chadwick gathered and shared his thoughts on the monumental event and his team’s performance.

“This was a great showcase for women’s rugby. What a performance from both teams. We have worked hard all year building a new standard for this program, and it showed in our grit and resilience. To go so far behind, so quickly, and to come back in the first half the way we did was impressive.”

“However, it was not as impressive as the second half where we showed real composure and a really thoughtful process. We stuck to the game plan, and it, in the end, got us the outcome we wanted – a full team performance and an outstanding performance from Nina Mason in all aspects of the game. And finally, a big thanks to all who traveled and supported us today and all season; it means everything to the players.”

Haughey was named Championship MVP, but a full team performance was needed. Lindenwood scored more tries than Life U, but Mason’s ability to get points was the ultimate game-decider.

The Running Eagles’ win makes history, as they end Lindenwood’s run of dominance in 15s. According to the Goff Rugby Report, the match set D1 Elite records for total points scored in a game (85), tries scored in a game (13), and points/tries scored by the losing side (41, 7). In only one other final has a team scored more than Life U’s 44 points, and that was Lindenwood’s 54 in 2021.

Up next, the Running Eagles quickly turn their attention to 7s with the national tournament set for May 4.

Founded in 1974, Life University is a health sciences institution most known for its College of Chiropractic, the largest single-campus College of Chiropractic in the world. Undergraduates can pursue 14 undergraduate degrees; a pre-chiropractic, degree-seeking pathway; and three graduate degrees within the College of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies. Some degree programs are offered to distance learners through the College of Online Education.

Life University strives to empower our students to succeed both professionally and personally. At Life U, we innovate our approach to higher education, while also remaining true to our philosophical commitment to produce informed leaders who exemplify humanistic values in their professions. To achieve this goal, Life U recognizes and demonstrates its dedication through three official Life University Values: Lasting Purpose, Vitalism and Integrity.

Life U’s 110-acre campus in Marietta, Georgia, just northwest of Atlanta, is home to more than 2,800 undergraduate, graduate and professional students who come from all 50 United States and more than 60 countries.

For more information about Life University, visit life.edu.

For more information about Life U Athletics, LifeRunningEagles.com.



About Life University

Life University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate, master’s and Doctor of Chiropractic degrees, and also has programmatic accreditation through the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) and the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). The mission of Life University is to empower students with the education, skills and values necessary for career success and life fulfillment, based on a vitalistic philosophy.