Host country Canada victorious in opening game of IFAF Women’s Worlds

Originally published on Women Talk Sports

 

With Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations approaching soon, the national women’s football team engaged in a strong sense of national pride. Seeded number two at the tournament, Canada becomes the first country outside of Europe to host the IFAF Women’s World Football Championships.

 

Kicking off against fifth-seeded Australia at McLeod Stadium in Langley, British Columbia, the host country was looking to start on a strong note. Ambitiously aiming for its first-ever gold medal, Canada was taking on an Australian squad making their IFAF debut.

 

John Konecki, a two-time gold medalist (2010, 2013) with Team USA at the IFAF Women’s Worlds, was part of the training camp for Australia late last year. Taking on the role of head coach with Australia for the IFAF Worlds is Dr. Jen Welter, who played for Konecki on those two gold medal teams. Having also made history as a female coach with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, Welter adds to her legacy as a coach at the IFAF Worlds.

 

Such presence can only be matched by Canada’s Saadia Ashraf. Having served as Canada’s quarterback in 2010 and 2013, she is not in a head coaching capacity, but is part of Canada’s coaching staff, the first former player to achieve this.

 

The first quarter resulted in Australia assembling a solid defensive performance while struggling on offense. With Carly Dyck, a kicker/wide receiver from the Saskatoon Valkyries making her debut for Canada, scoring a 34-yard field goal with 8:35 remaining in the first, it represented the only points of the quarter.

 

As Australia continued to struggle offensively in the second quarter, Canada’s offense began to click. Olivia DeMerchant, who also plays for the national rugby women’s team, scored Canada’s first touchdown of the game, and the IFAF Women’s Worlds.

 

With 5:48 remaining in the second, quarterback Aimee Kowalski, who also won a Western Women’s Canadian Football League championship in 2017 with the Regina Riot, connected with Laurence Pontbriand on a 30-yard reception. With Dyck successfully making the conversion on both touchdowns, Canada enjoyed a 17-0 halftime lead at halftime.

 

The first half would see Australia gain only first down. Although the squad managed 13 rushing yards, its passing game was non-existent, not accumulating one yard as Casey Cubis made three passing attempts. Compounding such woes was the fact that Australia fumbled twice while Emily Malone punted five times. On the opposite end, Canada enjoyed 16 first downs, complemented by 83 rushing yards and 40 passing yards, although they fumbled once.

 

Looking to chip away at Canada’s lead, Australia replied with Kristy Moran. A star player with the Logan City Jets who has captured the Summerbowl championship, she would right the offensive path, breaking through Canada’s defense for a 10-yard score. Emily Malone was unable to convert the extra point attempt as Australia faced an 11-point deficit.

 

Less than four minutes following Moran’s touchdown, Canada replied as Julene Friesen managed a 13-yard scoring gain, quickly putting the game out of reach. As Dyck made her third conversion of the game, the third quarter ended with Canada enjoying an 18-point advantage, as the scoreboard reflected a 24-6 score.

 

With Maude Lacasse, the starting quarterback for the Montreal Blitz, at the helm of Canada’s offense in the fourth quarter, she was a perfect 3-for-3, although she did not record a touchdown pass. Instead, Canada added more points via a fumble recovery, with Virginie Roussel recording a touchdown with 9:34 remaining in the game.

 

A successfully extra point attempt by Dyck resulted in a 31-6 score, which would also stand as the final. With seven points on the day, Dyck was the leading scorer of the game. She would also record 289 yards on six kickoffs, the longest being 50 yards, while Alex Black, in her third stint with Team Canada, recorded 124 yards on four punts.

 

Gaining Canada’s Player of the Game recognition was running back Cassey Brick, who averaged 4.8 yards on 10 carries. Of her 48 rushing yards on the day, her longest was a 22-yard gain. Fellow Canadians Julene Friesen and Laurence Thivierge also enjoyed strong days, recording 58 and 33 rushing yards each. Friesen also recorded 15 receiving yards, leading all players in total yards from scrimmage with 73.

 

Kristy Moran was the rushing leader for Australia, with a respectable 41 yards, pacing all members of her team. Laurence Pontbriand emerged as the game’s leading receiver, managing 49 yards on just four receptions for Canada. Teammate Samantha Matheson had a game-high 42-yard punt return.

 

Statistically, Australia managed five first downs in the second half, while amassing 62 rushing yards, a significant improvement on their first yard showing. Although replacement quarterback Lauren Evans managed two pass completions, she only managed two passing yards.

 

With three more fumbles in the second half, the Australians must improve drastically on offense in the hopes of gaining a spot in the medal round. One key point of concern for Canada is the fact that the second half saw six penalties. For a club hoping to return to its third consecutive gold medal game, it will require more disciplined play, as potential errors can prove to be costly.  

 

The other matches on the tournament’s Opening Day saw two-time defending champion United States blank sixth-seeded Mexico by a score of 29-0. Great Britain, seeded fourth and making their tournament debut, pulled off the biggest upset, defeating Finland, the defending bronze medalists, in a 27-21 final.

Advertisements

Star running back Kristy Moran a legend for the Logan City Jets

As the early months of the calendar year signify pro football playoffs in the United States, Australia enjoys its summer months, setting the stage for an exciting chapter in female sport there. With the Female Gridiron League of Queensland becoming home to some of the finest tackle football players down under, such an empowering league is headlined by superstars such as Kristy Moran.

One of the franchise players of the Logan City Jets, Moran is at the heartbeat of its offense, while serving as one of the league’s most popular and recognizable players. During the inaugural season of the FGLQ, the Jets grabbed the league’s first championship. Known as the Summerbowl, Moran was part of a 38-20 triumph against the Kenmore Panthers. The success of the FGLQ would spawn other leagues throughout Australia’s provinces, including New South Wales and Victoria.

Such a development would have a direct impact on Moran’s career. While she continued to play with the Jets in the FGLQ, there was also a to be contested on a national level. Of note, players from all three provinces would become eligible for roster spots on the Queensland SunDevils, an impromptu All-Star team. The result was a roster of elite talent that would compete for the Womens Australian Gridiron League National Championship game in 2014.

On their way to the 2014 national title, Moran was pure magic with the Sun Devils. Against the New South Wales Coyotes, she proved to be the factor in a convincing 42-6 victory. Contested at the Hurtsville Oval in Sydney, Moran assembled a solid ground game of over 200 rushing yards. While teammate Jodie Carl also scored a touchdown, a pair of quarterback sacks by Teri Nukz helped set the tone, as Moran’s superlative performance nullified the valiant efforts of Coyotes quarterback Nicole Morley.
Advancing against ACT (Australia’s Capital Territory) Gridiron Monarchs for championship bragging rights, Moran remained the focal point for the Sun Devils. In the aftermath of a 14-6 final in favor of Queensland, Moran added another significant milestone, obtaining Game MVP honors.

Her 43 yard touchdown run just before halftime provided Queensland with the 8-6 lead, helping shift momentum and perhaps confidence in its favor. With quarterback Denise Pepe (an FGLQ rival with the Gold Coast Sea Wolves) orchestrating a late game drive, it was Moran who would score with 10 seconds remaining, providing Queensland with the prestige of being national champions.

An historic honor for Moran complemented another series of MVP nods. Considering that the Jets have enjoyed three straight trips to the Summerbowl (winning in 2012 and 2014), Moran was recognized as the Most Valuable Player of Summerbowl II. Despite the Gold Coast Stingrays prevailing by a 12-8 count, Moran became the first player from a losing team to obtain such an honor.

In that same season, Moran was recognized as the FGLQ’s Offensive Most Valuable Player, marking the second straight season that a Jets player earned an end of season award. In 2012, Hayley Peterson, who was also bestowed the honor of the MVP in Summerbowl I, was recognized as the League MVP, respectively.

While Moran and Peterson have a mutual respect for each other, there is definitely a friendly rivalry between the two. Of note, both share the record for most touchdowns in an FGLQ game. Peterson would become the first to set the record, scoring four touchdowns against the Gold Coast Sea Wolves on August 31, 2013.

Moran would not just match the record, running for daylight on four separate occasions against an overwhelmed Western Jaguars squad on November 8, 2013, she would duplicate such success a second time. One week later, a rematch against the Jaguars saw Moran maintain her dominant ways, managing another sterling four touchdown performance.

Throughout such an incredible football journey, part of Moran’s likeability is defined by her humility. Devoted to her teammates, her football legacy is not just based on her legendary play, but her ability to stand proudly as a role model. Championing the highly admirable #nojokefootball campaign, there is no question that Moran shall likely a remain a key figure in the growth of the game.

#kristy-moran, #logan-city-jets

Finland defeats Great Britain in 2015 WEC Finals

As the Women’s European Championships were held on the same weekend as the Women’s Football Alliance championship game, it signified a remarkable time for female football. Estadio Maracena hosted three games on the same day, culminating with the gold medal game.

In the fifth place game, Spain narrowly escaped with a victory, besting Sweden by a 14-12 tally. Germany continued to show its status as an elite football nation, prevailing convincingly over Austria by a 26-7 mark. Finland, who captured the bronze medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, continued their reign as a European powerhouse, dismantling a greatly improved Great Britain team by a 50-12 margin.

During the first quarter, Great Britain’s defense was overwhelming, only allowing Finland to score six points. Jayne Goodliffe would kick a field goal with 6:24 remaining in the first, providing Great Britain with the first lead of the game. Although the Finns would reply with a touchdown by quarterback Jenni Wahlberg, the extra point attempt was no good. Led by linebacker Phoebe Schecter, who was recognized as Great Britain’s Player of the Game in a preliminary round win against Germany, a promising first quarter provided the Brits with confidence that an upset was possible.

Making adjustments in the second quarter, Finland scored a pair of rushing touchdowns by Paula Lehtinen and Wahlberg, while Great Britain’s quarterback Joannah (Jo) Kilby managed a quarterback sneak. Facing a 20-9 deficit at halftime, Great Britain was still within reach, but the offense would have to be more efficient in the second half.

Once again, Great Britain’s defense frustrated Finland, allowing only six points. Despite Ruth Matta providing a solid running game for Great Britain, the squad had difficulty putting up points. Trying to establish momentum, the best that the Brits could muster was another field goal by Godliffe.

Such frustration would come to a boil in the fourth quarter, as fatigue and humidity took its toll. Trailing by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter, Great Britain were unable to score any points. Despite their best efforts, the British defense collapsed under a strong offensive attack that resulted in Jenni Linden scoring a pair of touchdowns while Wahlberg decimated the opposing defense.

Scoring 24 unanswered points, a 26-12 lead after three quarters exploded to 50-12 upon the game’s completion. Wahlberg would score her third rushing touchdown of the game during the fourth quarter, while Tytti Kuusinen would score the game’s final touchdown with 4:13 remaining.

Despite the fourth quarter collapse, Great Britain was the feel-good story of the event. Entering the tournament ranked last, a remarkable performance which featured strong poise at the quarterback position by Kilby, swift running by Matta, and powerful effort by Schecter set the tone for a British team that is now ranked second in Europe.

Four members of the Finnish team were named Tournament All-Stars, including offensive lineman Mirva Honkonen, wide receiver Paula Lehtinen, running back Jenni Linden and quarterback Jenni Wahlberg. Great Britain’s feature running back Ruth Matta plus offensive lineman Laura Dye were the only Brits named to the All-Star team. As a side note, both running backs, Linden and Matta were recognized as the Players of the Game for their respective teams.

Former Steam competitor Ashley Pope brings all-around athletic approach to fitness

Having been part of the fitness industry since 2001, Ashley Pope is a highly motivated individual whose experience includes the likes of training, fitness management and life coach. Her commitment to fitness was evident during her two seasons of pro football with the Atlanta Steam. Working out a minimum of five days a week, her focus made her an integral part of the Steam’s success during its incipient years.

As one of the most competitive teams in indoor football, Pope’s efforts ensured that there was no sophomore slump for the Atlanta Steam. While individuals such as Jodie Nettles and Dakota Hughes earned many well-deserved accolades, the ability of many players to rise to the occasion helped contribute to a solid season.

Donning number 17 for the Atlanta Steam, Ashley Pope was among those players. One of the team’s iron women, she played on both sides of the ball. Engaging in such an approach certainly helped provide motivation to an ambitious team that would qualify for their respective league’s championship game in 2014.

For those who know Pope, they would be quick to attest that motivation is a key aspect of her athletic endeavors. Having earned certifications with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, her background as a lifestyle and wellness coach resulted in strong leadership in the locker room. Her guidance has made her a popular instructor for women looking to lose weight and sharpen their mental state.

In addition, Pope also extended her athletic endeavors in Atlanta to a second sport. Testament to Pope’s commitment to not only compete but motivate came through participation in the Models Basketball League. Of note, the charitable organization not only raises funds in the community, but generated so much interest that they even played at Philips Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks (usually gracing the hardcourt before Hawks home dates).

Although Pope was not born or raised in Atlanta, the roots she has now laid in the city are paying positive dividends. From her love of athletics, personal coaching and the drive to provide wellness to clients of all ages, her outgoing personality and strong sense of motivation serve her well. Currently serving as a wellness consultant,

References: Mike Del Rio

#ashley-pope, #atlanta-steam

Dr. Jen Welter among candidates for All Sports United Humanitarian Award

As Dr. Jen Welter continues to capture the hearts and minds of football fans with her historic appointment to the coaching staff of the Texas Revolution, another special milestone is bestowed upon the gridiron hero. She is among the list of remarkable sports heroes that are a candidate for the All Sports United Humanitarian Award.

In an admirable effort to recognize the charitable efforts of professional athletes (male and female), All Sports United is awarding a Humanitarian of the Year Award. Allowing sports fans the chance to participate in an online vote, the top ten vote-getters shall be recognized as the All-Stars of Giving.

With the last day of voting on May 15, fans may vote for three different athletes every day. Of all the athletes, one shall be recognized as the Humanitarian of the Year. The recipient shall receive approximately $100,000 in services for their favorite charity.

Recognized as one of the candidates on the ballot, Welter is joined by a remarkable group of female athletes. Among them (and their favorite charities) are the likes of Allison Baver (Off the Ice Foundation), Nadia Comaneci (Special Olympics), Cassie Hawrysh (Fast and Female) and Pam Shriver (The Pam Shriver Fund).

Welter’s favorite charity of choice is The Road to 777. Based out of Gilbert, Arizona, the Road to 777 employs innovation through collaboration. Looking to benefit seven foundations, the cause hosts seven events over seven months with the goal of raising $777,777 in contributions.

As a side note, any interested individuals can contribute online to their favorite athlete’s charity of choice. Through the Givkwik Fund, a donation can be made. Once voting for the Humanitarian of the Year has completed, all donations meant for the charity, such as The Road to 777 shall be combined and a grant will be given.

Looking to establish a health and wellness clinic in nearby Phoenix to treat brain injuries suffered by military veterans along with athletes, the Road to 777 also supports various causes. A listing of some causes includes: Girl Power 2 Cure, Rett Syndrome Research Trust, Triple R Horse Rescue, Hope for the Warriors, The Stop Abuse Campaign and the Navy SEAL Foundation.

Of note, Welter’s father served in the military, and she has honored her father’s service by participating in an indoor Army vs. Navy football game in Philadelphia honoring the military. In addition, Welter shall be one of the guests of honor at the Road to 777’s Women’s Empowerment Summit to take place on January 7, 2016 at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino. She will be joined by the likes of Melissa Mahler, the CEO and Founder of ProPlayer Insiders and business woman Jeni Summers. Having inspired a new generation of girls to pursue their dreams, Welter’s legacy is one that continues to deservedly grow.

As Welter engages in the next chapter of her remarkable career as a member of the coaching staff for the Texas Revolution, likely the first woman to coach in professional men’s football, the recognition of her efforts as a sporting humanitarian is a glowing tribute. Although only one athlete can win the AUS Humanitarian Award, the bigger victory is the effort to spread a positive message about athletes such as Welter looking to bring betterment to the community.

#jen-welter

Players should have not to apologize about Australian experience

Another tragic chapter in the realm of indoor women’s football in America is taking place. A few months ago, the league had planned its second annual season in Australia. Aggressive marketing had also taken place, as various competitors from several of the league’s franchises decided to participate down under, helping to grow the league and its brand. For various reasons, the league had pulled the plug before the season even started, with several of its players having already taken temporary residence in Australia.

Despite this setback, a new league formed in Australia, welcoming many of the stranded (to a degree) American players. The result was an exhibition tournament featuring All-Star teams from Australia, New Zealand and the United States. For several months, the American-based league made no comments about this event. Its only statement was that it was planning to give the second season another try in the near future.

With the American league opening tryout camps in the United States for its 2015 season, it would have been very easy to assume that any hard feelings about the rival league in Australia was behind. Of course, such assumptions were ill conceived.

Recently, three North American-based players have posted online apologies via social media about their playing time in Australia. Obviously, this raises eyebrows. Taking into account past incidents where league leadership became infamous for its acts of attritions and off-field mind games, how could the finger of blame not be pointed in their direction? As a side note, some of the players that are assumed to be favorites among league leadership have not issued any kind of apologies about their playing time in Australia.

Although there is very little detail as to what transpired to cause this series of apologies to take place among the three players, one cannot help but feel that the result may be broken friendships and possible bad blood, all unnecessarily generated because member(s) of the league’s leadership are grudging individual(s). Concern over another league bears more relevance than one’s own league, which is quickly becoming inconsequential.

This is another example where former players must unite and continue to make their voices heard about such bullying behavior. In addition, the Australian league must come forward as a show of gratitude to stand up for these victimized players who have likely been made to feel worthless while possibly enduring verbal abuse. While the outcome of this most recent debacle may certainly discourage other potential players to consider participation in Australia, the bigger picture shows the league sinking deeper and deeper into its own hole, continuing to add more fuel to the fires that have burnt bridges.

Let us not forget that the infamous league cancelled its planned sophomore season down under, leaving its own star players inconvenienced. If three players have to apologize to the league about their time playing down under, should all the other players follow? With all the photos that were taken by players and posted on social media, including comments about the fun they had, will there need to be apologies for that as well?

In retrospect, common sense would have dictated that the league should have made a statement about its players participating in a rival league before any events even started.
In reality, no one should have to apologize except the league itself. Of note, its leadership made promises that it was not able to keep, something that former players in Canada are far too familiar with.

This type of petty and mean-spirited intimidation is not acceptable and another example of how some of the league’s bullies poorly treat women, despite its sole existence being based on women competing. As said league continues its plans to expand into Europe, this just continues to damage their already shaken credibility.

Four more indoor football teams sadly thrown under the bus

As the state of indoor women’s football in America continues to come under scrutiny, a group of dedicated and underappreciated women have just been unduly dumped from their respective league. Franchises based in the states of Florida, Maryland, Ohio and Wisconsin are not part of their league’s plans for the upcoming 2015 season.

Sadly, this marks the third consecutive season that teams have been contracted. Last season, teams from Minnesota and Pennsylvania faced the same predicament. Compounding matters was the fact that the Pennsylvania squad had competed in the league’s championship game for three consecutive teams. At the time, their contraction was a horrible example of the league being poorly run and a slap in the face to the women who tried so valiantly to win a championship.

For the players on these four now defunct teams, their situation is an ongoing example of the tragedy concerning the women who compete in this league. Of note, all the players throughout the league’s dismal history have never been the recipients of any compensation. Instead, they were the recipients of criticism, intimidation and verbal abuse.

Said players were expected to sell tickets and face benching if certain quotas were not met. In addition, players were levied to fines if conduct was deemed inappropriate (somewhat ironic concerning that there is no compensation to begin with). Forced to wear multiple hats as athletes, sex symbols, sales representatives, fund raisers and overall ambassadors for the league, the poor treatment reflected an overall lack of class.

The remarkable sacrifices of the players, whose personal lives were affected by continuous practice and charitable endeavors, all in the name of their team, were not even acknowledged in the aftermath of their indoor football careers being abruptly altered. Taking into account that a player from the Wisconsin team nearly lost her life last season in a game that took place in Nevada, the league has shown a serious lack of leadership, choosing to sweep problems under the rug, rather than work towards solving them.

Perhaps more damaging is the working relationships that have broken with coaches. Of note, the Maryland and Wisconsin teams both featured head coaches that were not only former competitors in the NFL, but also Super Bowl champions. These individuals not only earned the respect of their players, but added a credible, major league feeling. Taking into account the strong bonds of friendship that exist within pro football, there is no question that these disillusioned coaches will never refer anyone of significant pro background to serve in any capacity with this league.

Aggravating matters is the fact that the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2014 actually played on the Florida team. For her efforts, she is rewarded by not having a team to play for. Although some of her teammates have opted to suit up for a rival in Georgia, it hardly makes up for a group of women who spent the last four seasons trying to build momentum in the Sunshine State.

An intriguing element considering the MVP is that she was one of a handful of Florida players who accepted the league’s offer to play in the second season of the league’s Australian version. Before the second season even began, it was announced that all regular season games were being cancelled, stranding over a dozen players.

Following this debacle, a new female football league sprouted in Australia. The vast majority of the players stayed and participated in the rival league’s inaugural event; the Nations Cup, featuring national teams comprised of the United States, New Zealand and host country Australia. As a side note, several players from the Florida and Ohio teams donned the US colors to participate. Upon the players return to the United States, the bombshell was dropped about the contraction.

Although there is no factual evidence to support such a decision, the US league’s poor track record and continuously worsening reputation certainly augments conversation that this was a premeditated and malicious act of attrition. What certainly exists as fact is that these players are treated as nothing more than disposable.

The bridges burnt with the players and fans in these respective markets means that a league which is already on life support can never return there in the future. Unfortunately for the league, the number of markets that have felt betrayed is far bigger than the remaining teams still existing today.

For the players that remain, how can they still approach the league with any confidence? There is no question that the women of indoor football are hard-working, dedicated and very confident, strong women that deserve the admiration of the fans. Yet, the parallel is that they are also looking over their shoulders, cautiously curious as to whether their efforts will end up in vain. Although the league shall reach its inevitable end, fans can only hope that these same women will show an even greater courage, and work together towards emulating the Australian example and launch a new league, preventing such horrible occurrences from happening again.