With June 6 representing the birthday of living legend Donna Wilkinson, there was an extra element of motivation for an undefeated DC Divas club. Hosting the Cleveland Fusion in their 2015 homecoming contest, it was a battle featuring two of the top-ranked female football teams in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA).
Of note, the Divas enjoy the top-ranked spot for the first time since 2011. Prior to facing the fifth-ranked Fusion, the Divas enjoyed a 54-0 whitewashing of the Atlanta Phoenix. The Fusion would not be taken lightly as the Divas suffered three fumbles in the first half against Atlanta. Taking into account that the Fusion defense ranked second in WFA play, the only other defense more dominant was the Divas.
Despite a Fusion offense led by elite signal caller Beth Andrasik, the Divas punishing defense was a point of concern. Forcing seven turnovers against Atlanta, the Divas have also held five of six opponents to less than seven points. Surprisingly, the only other time that the Fusion played the Divas was on April 16, 2005, an 18-0 loss.
In order to remain in the race for the Mid-Atlantic Division title, which they have won in 11 of the last 12 years, a win against Cleveland was crucial for the Divas. Equally important was the need for the club to remain in the race for home field advantage throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs.
By halftime, the Divas enjoyed a 27-0 lead. In the second half, the Fusion actually outscored the Divas by a 7-0 score, but it was not enough to overcome the halftime deficit. The Fusion replaced Beth Andrasik (6 of 18, 92 yards and 2 interceptions) in the third quarter with Keri Palma, who managed one touchdown pass but was intercepted twice in a performance that also included 141 passing yards.
Prevailing by a 27-7 tally, the Divas defense also stymied the Fusion running game. Despite the win, the Divas offense endured four quarterback sacks, which cannot continue should they aspire towards a deep playoff run. Of note, Veronica Rucker registered a pair of sacks for the Fusion, while Elizabeth Dillow and Stephanie Russo logged one sack each, respectively.
Playing at home yielded positive results for the Divas as they improved their record to 7-0 for the first time since 2009. In addition, the Divas held a halftime ceremony to honor the D.C. Divas Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Tessa Nelson, Gayle Dilla, Vickie Lucas, and Coach Ezra Cooper, only adding to the feelings of jubilation that defined a winning weekend.