Lindenwood enters its DI-AA semifinal clash with Western Washington as the clear favorite, having won the DII National Championship in its first year, clobbered any and all DI-AA comers this season and tested itself against the likes of Davenport, Life and Arkansas State in friendlies.
The Lions know they’re the favorite, as they have going into most games they’ve played in their young history. That self awareness hasn’t bitten Lindenwood, yet.
“As far as Western Washington goes, we’re just taking it as another game, as another step to the final,” said Lindenwood fullback Morgan Findlay. “We’re not taking it for granted, and hopefully if we play like we did in the playoffs, then we can come away with a win.”
Western has been impressive in its own right, easily cruising through the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference undefeated and winning its way into the Final Four with back-to-back double-digit wins. And while the Vikings have administrative, alumni and coaching advantages over most of their Northwestern opponents, they’re David in this match-up.
“From what we’ve spoken about, we’re expecting to see Dartmouth in the finals should we get through and they’re not going to be a walk in the park at all,” said Findlay. “We’ve just got to keep our head about us and remain injury free, because we lost three guys to the hospital on that first game against Northern Illinois. That was a bit of a shock.”
If there’s a time to knock off the Lions, this weekend is it, as they have suffered some injuries and lost a couple of players to international call-ups – Tama Paogofie-Buyten is with the U20s in Minnesota and Sebastian Kalm is in camp with the Chilean National Team. Nonetheless, Lindenwood is unfairly deep with talent.
“We’re a tight unit on and off the field, so everyone’s used to being with each other and playing with each other and its good that we can rely on our bench and that we have that depth to be able to fulfill our positions should fall away or be away with representative duties such as Sebastian and Tama,” said Findlay.
“Those guys are a big loss. But it just goes to show that we do have the depth coming off the bench to fulfill those roles and hopefully do the business when the opportunity gets put in front of us.”
Part of Western’s attack this season has been the foot of flyhalf Quinten Wilms, who has the ability to pin the ball in the corners and control field position. But he should be careful against Lindenwood, as Findlay is the most potent counter attacker on American soil.
To beat Lindenwood, Western will need to kick impeccably, control as much possession as possible and lure the Lions into committing excessive penalties at the breakdown.