Danika Brace delivers on all accounts in dream season for Seattle Mist

After contemplating retirement following the 2014 season with the Las Vegas Sin, the return of Danika Brace to the gridiron was warmly welcomed by the Seattle Mist. During her time with the Sin, Brace developed into one of the league’s elite performers on defense, becoming an emotional leader, sticking up for her teammates in the face of adversity. Such bravura was exactly what the Mist needed, as the club entered 2015 looking for its first-ever championship.

Part of a sensational free-agent class that included quarterback KK Matheny and wide receiver Bryn Renda (both of the dissolved Jacksonville Breeze), Brace developed quick chemistry with her new teammates, bringing an enthusiasm and determination that set the example on the defensive side of the ball.

In the aftermath of a regular season that saw the Mist grab the Western Conference regular season crown with a 5-1 mark, Brace built on such success with a memorable postseason performance. Grabbing the game-winning touchdown pass against the Los Angeles Temptation in the Western Conference championship game, she would also log 3.5 tackles. In the Legend Cup final against the two-time defending champion Chicago Bliss, not only did Brace rank third among all players in rushing yardage and second in receptions, she would show great versatility by ranking second among all players in tackles, while leading all Mist players, respectively.

A jubilant Brace all smiles after a landmark Legends Cup victory over Chicago (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/SeattleMist?fref=photo)

A jubilant Brace all smiles after a landmark Legends Cup victory over Chicago (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/SeattleMist?fref=photo)

Brace proved to be a remarkable force on both sides of the ball. Akin to Stevi Schnoor, a very talented athlete who has provided solid performances offensively and defensively, their collaborative efforts added a whole new dimension to the Mist’s confidence.

Statistically, both were among the Mist’s top four producers on offense and defense. While Schnoor was the catalyst for the Mist’s running game, earning the league’s rushing title. Brace tied with fellow free agent acquisition with 14 receptions. Of note, Brace’s 112 receiving yards would finish second to Renda and Schnoor managed 13 receptions, providing the Mist with a very potent passing game as all three finished among the league’s top five leading receivers.

Defensively, Brace was the gold standard. While she tied Mist charter member Jessica Hopkins with 19 assisted tackles, she punctuated her impact with an astounding 26 solo tackles, registering 35.5 overall, respectively. Only Chicago’s Alli Alberts managed more tackles (36.5). In addition, Brace and Hopkins tied for second overall in league play with a pair of interceptions each.

Brace’s efforts were a key factor in the Mist allowing only 77.4 rushing yards per game, second only to the Chicago Bliss. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Brace accounted for 21% of the Mist’s tackles, she managed 6.5 tackles for loss. It was also among the many reasons that Brace was recognized as the 2015 LFL Defensive Player of the Year. Having also had the honor bestowed upon her in 2014, she becomes the first woman in league history to claim the award back-to-back with two different teams, testament to her dominant play.

Complementing such a historical achievement was the fact that she captured the 2015 league MVP Award, the first player in Seattle Mist history to do so. Taking into account that Brace started her career in 2011 with the Mist, the MVP honor helped bring her fabled career full circle. Following it up the next day with an emotional victory against the Chicago Bliss on home soil, capturing the first Legends Cup in team history, it was a storybook ending to a dream season.

In the aftermath of an unprecedented Legends Cup championship, Brace has proudly served as one of the Mist’s ambassadors. Joined by several teammates along the way, she has brought the fabled Cup on a fabled tour of Seattle.

KK Matheny (left) and Brace bringing the Legends Cup to the Seattle Sounders (Image obatined from: https://twitter.com/danikabrace)

KK Matheny (left) and Brace bringing the Legends Cup to the Seattle Sounders (Image obatined from: https://twitter.com/danikabrace)

Complemented by the presence of her proud, winning smile, Brace and the Cup have gone to the top of the world famous Space Needle, while showing up at the stadiums of other famous Seattle sports teams, such as baseball’s Mariners and soccer’s Sounders.

Among all the accolades being recognized by Seahawks head coach, the legendary Pete Carroll on social media may have been the most remarkable honor. Taking into account that Carroll led the Seahawks to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII, his recognition only adds a proud big league feeling to the hard work and sacrifices of empowering women such as Danika Brace, whose 2015 season was one of the finest in modern female football history.

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#bryn-renda, #danika-brace, #kk-matheny, #las-vegas-sin, #seattle-mist

Cynthia Schmidt earns recognition on popular Extra Mustard online feature

Building momentum in the aftermath of the Las Vegas Sin’s season opener against the Los Angeles Temptation, SI.com featured veteran player Cynthia Schmidt. Appearing on the site’s Extra Mustard segment, blending various aspects of pop culture, while incorporating entertainment, Schmidt was part of the daily Babe of the Day feature.

SIExtraMustardCynthiaSchmidt

Considering that SI.com’s companion magazine, Sports Illustrated, is famous for its annual Swimsuit Issue, Sin fans would certainly welcome the concept of Schmidt possibly gracing its pages. Representing a great career milestone for Schmidt, it not only raises the profile of her club team, but it may generate many new fans.

Such recognition builds on the momentum set by fellow player Alli Alberts. Having enjoyed a postgame beer in the aftermath of being named the Player of the Game, Alberts made national news. Video footage would go viral online, reaching over 1 million hits, generating interest from as far as Russia.

Known affectionately as Megatron, the Indianapolis-raised Schmidt displayed strong athletic aptitude in her youth, competing in soccer, softball, swim and track. Also a 2011 alum of ROTC with Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, she graduated with a major in Criminal Justice. Commissioned in 2010 as a Military Intelligence Officer, Schmidt is more than must a pretty face.

Before relocating to Las Vegas, Schmidt already had some experience on the gridiron. In 2012, she competed for the Indy Crash in the Women’s Football Alliance, where the club finished with a 6-4 record. Of note, she ranked among the top 10 on the Crash in receiving yardage.

A Western Conference All-Star Selection in 2014, her background with the United States Army is testament to he strong leadership she brings to the gridiron. As a side note, she is not the only competitor in the Legends Football League with a military background. Atlanta Steam defensive captain Leanne Hardin is a member of the United States Air Force.

Among one of the most popular members of the Sin roster, her charisma and love of the game are complemented by an impressive athletic ability and film star looks. Despite the Sin losing the season opener against the Temptation, Schmidt contributed with a 26-yard reception. Of note, she will be relied upon to provide prime time performances for new head coach Willie Garrett as the Sin look to qualify for the postseason.

#cynthia-schmidt, #las-vegas-sin

Superstar running back Tamar Fennell lands in Las Vegas

Among one of the most accomplished running backs in the history of the Legendss Football League, Tamar Fennell brings her world class talents to the Las Vegas Sin. For a franchise in the second year of its rebuilding, her solid skills may help the process accelerate more rapidly.

With exciting young talents such as quarterback Sindy Cummings and receiver Markie Henderson, Fennell helps balance out the offensive attack with a solid running game. Making her Sin debut in a contest against the Los Angeles Temptation, Fennell provided a valiant effort accumulating 38 combined yards from scrimmage including a touchdown. Considering the Sin feature veteran talents such as Kelly Campbell and Cynthia Schmidt, Fennell helps them to fill in a leadership gap left by Danika Brace signing with the Seattle Mist.

Image obtained from Facebook

Image obtained from Facebook

Over the last several seasons, “I’ve been everywhere” could truly apply to Fennell’s sterling career. Having first established herself with the Cleveland Crush, her talent would bring her to the Saskatoon Sirens in 2012.

Playing alongside the likes of Heather Furr and Anne Erler, Fennell helped the Sirens capture the hearts and minds of Saskatoon football fans, among some of the most rapid in Canada. Having contributed to the Sirens appearance in the LFL Canada championship game, Fennell helped the squad score the most points during the regular season.

Returning to Cleveland in 2013, the following year would bring with it many changes for Fennell. Of note, 2014 would not only see the Crush move from Cleveland to Toledo, but she would sandwich in a season with LFL Australia, competing for the Queensland Brigade. As a side note, she was joined down under by the likes of other American stars such as Monique Gaxiola and Adrian Purnell.

As the only player to have scored touchdown in LFL play in the United States, Australia and Canada, her gridiron legacy is secure. The only achievement to elude Fennell is the chance to hoist the prestigious Legends Cup trophy. With an assiduous quarterback in Cummings, Fennell may prove to be the last piece of the puzzle towards a winning direction.

#las-vegas-sin, #sindy-cummings, #tamar-fennell

Las Vegas Sin rookie sensations bring their impressive game to Australia

With female football starting to grow in Australia, fans will be treated by the presence of a group of future superstars. Sindy Cummings and Markie Henderson are among a group of Las Vegas Sin players who shall be extending their seasons by competing down under.

Cummings and Henderson made such an impression during the Sin’s 2014 campaign that they earned the respect of veteran Danika Brace, who ranked fifth in the league in tackles. Of note, she mentioned them in her farewell address to the team.

Ironically, Brace will be their opponents heading into the Australian campaign, as she will suit up for the Victoria Maidens. The thought of Brace possibly intercepting a Cummings pass or tackling Henderson will certainly be a different experience.

Joining the Queensland Brigade as its field general shall be Cummings. Despite a frustrating winless season in Las Vegas, Cummings emerged as a breakthrough star, with a sparkling rookie campaign that saw her log 10 touchdown passes with zero interceptions.

Known affectionately as Super Sindy, Cummings looks to build on the momentum of her strong rookie campaign with Las Vegas (Artwork obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/sclfl)

Known affectionately as Super Sindy, Cummings looks to build on the momentum of her strong rookie campaign with Las Vegas (Artwork obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/sclfl)

Her 286 passing yards ranked in the league’s top five, while she led all passers with a 100.3 passer rating. Along with Rookie of the Year winner Dakota Hughes (who led all quarterbacks with 324 passing yards), they comprise a new generation of elite quarterbacks.

Along with Cummings, Sin teammates LaChelle Forman and Cynthia Schmidt shall continue their seasons with Queensland. Forman brings stability to the offensive line, giving Cummings a familiar face to protect her. Schmidt would finish the Sin season with 9.5 total tackles, while ranking second on the club with 89 receiving yards and leading all players with four touchdowns.

A solid two-way player, Cynthia Schmidt is ready to occupy such a role down under (Photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

A solid two-way player, Cynthia Schmidt is ready to occupy such a role down under (Photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

In the absence of Henderson playing for a rival club down under, Schmidt shall likely emerge as Cummings’ favorite target on the Queensland offense. With Remy Olinzock from the Toledo Crush also suiting up for the Queensland Brigade, it will provide the club with a pair of solid two-way players.

Known affectionately as Lil’ Train, Markie Henderson emerged as a premier receiver, giving Las Vegas one of the best quarterback-receiver tandems in the league. She tied with Chicago’s Chris’Dell Harris for first in receptions. Of note, she averaged 11.5 yards per catch (Harris has 14.1).

While she accounted for 40% of the team’s receiving yardage, complemented by three TD receptions, she was equally adept in the running game. She would finish her rookie campaign as the team’s rushing leader, while leading all Sin players in combined yards from scrimmage with 211 yards.

Markie Henderson during player introductions (Photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

Markie Henderson during player introductions (Photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

Perhaps more impressive was the brutal hit that she laid out on Chicago Bliss cornerback Dominique Collins. Taking into account that Henderson is 5’3” and 120 pounds, she flattened Collins, who measures in at 5’5” and 135 pounds. Video footage went viral as Henderson proved she was not to be taken lightly.

The versatility that Henderson showed in her game will make her a welcome addition to the Western Australia Angels. Joining her on the team shall be marquee running back Tamar Fennell. Of note, Fennell is the only player to have logged an indoor football touchdown in Canada (with the Saskatoon Sirens), the United States (Cleveland Crush) and in Australia (having played in 2013).

While the strong performance of Cummings and Henderson were the highlights in a difficult season of transitions for Las Vegas, it supplies the fan base with the faith that better days shall come soon. The chance to compete in Australia and polish their already strong game may prove to be the turning point in what transforms them from a winless squad to a proud championship team.

#cynthia-schmidt, #danika-brace, #lachelle-forman, #las-vegas-sin, #markie-henderson, #queensland-brigade, #sindy-cummings, #tamar-fennell, #victoria-maidens, #western-australia-angels

Nikki Johnson’s dismissal from her previous league not the way to treat one of its icons

As one of the first superstars in the history of the LFL, one of the women who helped bring a major league feel to the inaugural season of LFL Canada, Nikki Johnson deserved better. The heartbeat of the Las Vegas Sin franchise, her offensive prowess made these determined beauties of the desert one of the hottest sporting tickets in Vegas.

After enduring and suffering through various nagging pains and wrist surgery, Johnson got tangled in a new fight. Rather than running for daylight against a bruising defense, she wanted a sense of fairness and dignity for a group of courageous and determined athletic women that graced the LFL’s gridirons.

Quarterbacks Johnson (left) and Joey Davenport during the introduction of the Las Vegas Sin. Image obtained from: http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Nikki+Johnson/Lingerie+Football+League+Vegas+Sin+Player/novo-h2HQih

Quarterbacks Johnson (left) and Joey Davenport during the introduction of the Las Vegas Sin. Image obtained from: http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Nikki+Johnson/Lingerie+Football+League+Vegas+Sin+Player/novo-h2HQih

Just like the struggles that Terrible Ted Lindsay endured in the 1950’s when he tried to start a players union in the National Hockey League, Johnson would find herself in the proverbial dog house. While the NHLPA would be a reality in 1967, Lindsay was labeled as an agitator and was shipped to the last place Chicago Black Hawks. Johnson was the recipient of a coarse and offensive message advising her that she was no longer welcome in LFL play.

Considering the way she put her body on the line throughout the seasons in order to gain a few extra yards for a first down or get a touchdown at the expense of her own safety, Johnson deserved better. While it is true that female rugby is a punishing and unforgiving sport, there is a support staff in place which ensures that players are taken care of, incorporating a sense of dignified sportsmanship, rather than being told expletives.

When Peyton Manning suffered his neck injury with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, could one have imagined if Robert Irsay would have showered him with foul language and abruptly dismissed him from the team? Although Manning would eventually move on to another team, every aspect of that situation was handled with complete class. Sadly, this did not happen for a highly deserving individual such as Johnson.

At this point, the LFL’s loss is truly the WFA’s gain. Having once competed with the Las Vegas Showgirlz of the Women’s Football Alliance, Johnson also earned All-America honors. While there is no compensation with the Showgirlz, there is an element of fairness and a humane culture which is worthy of someone like Johnson. A valiant athlete with a strong sense of determination and perseverance, Johnson is a true competitor that makes any team better.

It would appear that ever since the LFL Canada season was derailed, the league has tragically descended into a sort of downward spiral. While the league shelved its 2012 season in the US, the reality is that it mass defections from players may lead to such a situation again. Concerns over quality and preparation were points of tension with the failed Canadian campaign.

Doing things right is essential towards sustainable growth. With a star like Nikki Johnson no longer with Vegas, how can the franchise improve on their .333 winning percentage? Concerns over quality could quickly have a toxic effect on the league, which would be a sort of karmic payback. While Johnson has become a martyr over wanting to do the right thing, she will have her day in the sun and it may be one that outshines any she had with her former team.

#las-vegas-showgirlz, #las-vegas-sin, #nikki-johnson

Anna Heasman an exciting component of Green Bay Chill’s high powered offense

Nominated for the 2013 LFL Rookie of the Year Award and for the Offensive Player of the Year Award, Anna Heasman had a breakout season for the Green Bay Chill. The Receiving Leader in the Legends Football League, it was part of a campaign that helped to provide the franchise with optimism for the future.

Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaGbChillLfl

Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaGbChillLfl

Originally from Nelson Bay in New South Wales, Australia, Heasman has proven to be a welcome addition to the Chill. Her 18 receptions accounted for 41 percent of the Chill’s total receptions, while her 246 receiving yards accounted for 44 percent of the receiving corps. Leading the team in both categories, the second-best receiver was Hallie Jiskra (an LFL All-Fantasy selection) with 6 receptions and 114 yards. In addition, she would contribute on defense with 5.5 total tackles.

Heasman quickly became a fan favorite among Chill fans. Joining Jessica Tomochek and Jessica Peyton, they were guests on the WakeUp morning show on FOX6. Finishing the season as the LFL receiver in receptions, yards per game and touchdowns, she captured the imagination of teammates and rivals alike throughout the LFL.

As a weapon for elite quarterback Anne “Showtime” Erler (who would win the LFL Offensive Player of the Year Award), it helped make the Chill postseason contenders. As the Chill’s 210 offensive yards per game and 133 passing yards per game ranked first in the league, Heasman added an exciting dimension to the offense.

Her coming out party would come in the third game of the season for the Chill on June 22. In a 40-32 road loss to the Las Vegas Sin, the contest would prove to be one of the greatest in league history. Heasman would set an LFL record with five touchdowns in one game. After Carmen Bourseau provided the Sin with a 6-0 advantage, Erler hooked up with Heasman for a 35-yard score.

Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MyGreenBayChill

Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MyGreenBayChill

Fellow Rookie of the Year nominee Kelly Schroeder replied for Las Vegas with her own touchdown. Once again, Heasman would prove to be the answer as Erler found her for a three-yard scoring play. After halftime, Green Bay would hold a 20-18 lead as Heasman scored the first touchdown of the half.
Despite Sin quarterback Nikki Johnson and Erler holding one of the finest gunslinging exhibitions in LFL history, Heasman stole the show as her fourth touchdown (a 13-yard pass) tied the game at 26 apiece. Johnson would reply with her powerful legs, running 35 yards for a touchdown run and the lead once again.

Not discouraged, the Heasman and Erler show continued. With Green Bay struggling on the rush, Heasman provided Erler with a reliable target. As Erler picked apart the defense, she would conclude another successful drive by connecting with Heasman for her record setting fifth score. Although Johnson would find Maddie McCoy for the game-winning touchdown, Heasman gained the respect of all in attendance at the match.

While fans hope she returns for the 2014 season, another group of fans are eagerly hopeful that Heasman is not finished playing in 2013. With LFL Australia kicking off on December 6, fans are hoping that Aussie native Heasman will decide to play a little longer this year. Should she decide to join the league in its inaugural season, it would certainly provide fans and players alike with another incentive to look forward to the league’s launch.

#anna-heasman, #anne-erler, #green-bay-chill, #las-vegas-sin, #nikki-johnson