Life pass first test with flying colors

D1A Rugby: Life pass first test with flying colors
Photo Credit: Payton Tymn

BOULDER, Colo. – Life University’s 2016 debut was a relentless showing that produced a 119-0 victory over South Carolina.

Following a fall semester which saw the Running Eagles’ less experienced players win four friendlies while a handful of upperclassmen earned minutes with Life’s Elite Training Group, the entire unit was brought together and seamlessly meshed for 80 minutes.

There are plenty of departments that the coaching staff will fine tune, but it’s not surprising this year’s team has already adopted Life’s selfless approach.

“In this part of the season I thought the support play was ahead of where we anticipated,” assessed Life Head Coach Scott Lawrence. “We have an attitude in our team of working hard to make someone else successful. They hustled to make that happen.”

Clinical go-forward rugby was on display against the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference runner-up from the opening whistle. More than a half-dozen Running Eagles crossed the line for tries in the opening stanza, with Mike Islava and Marcus Walsh punching in two apiece. The second half was more of the same, as Estevan Florez, Blane Mcllroy, Conner Mooneyham, and several others joined in on the scoring barrage.

Especially impressive was Duncan Van Schalkwyk, who wore the No. 10 jumper on Life’s Varsity side for the first time. The sophomore had plenty of experience at fly half prior to college, and commends his teammates for making his job as first receiver easier.

“Last year I played all around the back line, but that gave me the opportunity to learn the system through players like Blane Mcllroy while I was on the field with them,” Van Schalkwyk said. “It helped me prepare for whatever my role will be this year.

“With talented players like my older brother, Zander, and Cody Melphy next to me, no matter who I give the ball to something good will come from it. We are blessed with a lot of talented players like these boys, and they simply make my job easier when game day comes along.”

It’s not only his teammates Van Schalkwyk is complimentary of, but the coaches, as well.

“From the moment [coach Lawrence] walked into our doors as head coach, the bar was raised to a higher standard,” Van Schalkwyk continued. “We come to practice with the same intensity we do on game day, and that leads to us being successful on the field.”

Last year, the Running Eagles won their four Mid-South Conference matches by a combined 17 points – a far cry from the competitiveness of its latest result against South Carolina. Still, Life believes its nonconference slate of matches will have the team ready for its Feb. 27 conference opener against Lindenwood, noting that a weekend double header against Air Force and Navy will be a tall task, and this weekend’s opponent is quite competitive.

“Clemson is a tough program and put us under pressure last fall,” said Lawrence.

The Atlantic Coast Rugby League-winning Tigers of Clemson will make the trip to Marietta, Ga., for a Feb. 6 fixture against Life, and the following weekend the Running Eagles will contend with military academies Air Force and Navy on consecutive days.