After two thrilling semifinals, the 2019 D1A final will be a rematch of the 2018 title bout between Life University and Cal. The Bears eked out a win at the death over St. Mary’s and Life University came from behind late to beat Lindenwood late in the second half.
The Bears took down UC-Davis, Arizona and St. Mary’s to win the western region while Life upended Penn State, Navy and Lindenwood to take home the eastern title.
Since the Life program emerged as a Varsity program a decade ago, the two schools have met twice, both in the national playoffs. The first time Cal dispatched Life 43-10 in the 2011 quarterfinals and the second was last year’s D1A final that saw Life dominate.
The national final is sure to be filled with drama and attitude after last year’s result. The 60-5 win for Life was the first ever victory over Cal and one of the few times in the history of college rugby that Cal was win the receiving end of lopsided score.
How will the two teams respond? A lot has changed in a year. Cal has a seasoned and more experienced team that learned from last year while Life had a number of players graduate from the 2018 squad.
Cal captain Nic Mirhashem indicated that the team needs to improve upon last year and is focused on putting in a good game this year.
“We will need to play better. We will need our best match yet,” the four year starter said of his team. “We always want to perform well. Pride of performance is important to us.”
Despite the player turnover, Life is still managing to be one of the toughest teams in the country. The Running Eagles are on an incredible run with their last loss coming in the 2017 D1A final to St. Mary’s.
It has been a consistent approach, despite the change of players over the course of the three year win streak, that has led Life to excel on the pitch.
“Some players are the same but it’s a different year and a different game. You strive to improve year after year, plan to the best of your ability while adapting to what gets thrown at you,” said Life coach Colton Cariaga.
Both teams have indicated to not put stock in last year’s result. This game is surely to come down to the end.
“Both teams have had some resilient performances over the past month,” Cariaga added. “We expect the best from Cal. That’s a given. They will be buzzing.”
“It’s difficult to compare teams, every team is different from the next. I suppose at this point in the season 2018 & 2019 are similar in both teams getting to the final. They are really good,” Cal coach Jack Clark said of the matchup and the Life University opposition.