The U of T women’s flag football team entered the Laurier Tournament on February 12 and 13 ranked first in the province after winning both the University of Toronto Annual Tournament and the McMaster Showcase tournament.
The team started strong on Friday night, winning their first round robin game over one of Laurier’s six teams in the tournament. The second round robin game was played Saturday morning also against a Laurier squad before finishing the round robin against McMaster’s top-ranked team—Toronto’s rival from the previous tournament.
The women only played three round robin games against other teams, who played four games. After finishing the round robin, there was a three-hour break and then the quarterfinals. U of T was outnumbered against McMaster, but they still won handily. The final game against Guelph went back and forth, trading clutch performances. The U of T women were winning 11-6 after scoring a touchdown, two-point conversion, and a field goal. Guelph drove the field on the last possession of the game, having the tournament come down to a fourth down and goal play from the three-yard line—luckily the women stopped them by tackle in the backfield. The offence took a knee to end the game and the U of T women jumped on one another in euphoria.
“[This is] the first time that one team has won all three major tournaments,” says head coach Kevin Collins. “Also, we lost in the finals last year, so it was awesome to get it finally.”
The Blues motto this year was Do Your Job, meaning give it full effort and use your logic and experience. Every player who stepped on the field, from starters to third line players, did her job and deserves a shout out.
“A championship wouldn’t be possible without everyone pulling their weight,” says Collins. The strong arm of Julia Van led the offence; she connected multiple times throughout the tournament with Debbie Lee, Rylie Wilson, and Victoria Raimundo. The running game was the driving force of the offence and was led by Hailey Burton, Jenny Lindemen, Kiran Mann, and Natalia King. Running backs Alexia Tam and Vanessa Corridor were quick to run through the opposing defence. Our defence was led by linebackers Daniella Nusca, Rachelle Mayo, and rookies Molly Woudenberg and Taylor Babcock, while the defensive cornerbacks Carmen Bacon and Elaine Oswald, made opposing offence afraid to throw the ball.
“As a running back, I’d personally like to give a hand to the offensive line. These ladies were up against some pretty tough matchups and they persevered and executed each play amazingly. They made my job look a lot easier,” says Tam.
Not many people came into this season thinking they would sweep three tournament championships. It’s always a goal to strive for, but no team in powderpuff history has ever won even two consecutive tournaments.
“To come out on top is incredible. We still can’t believe it; it hasn’t sunk in. We came together as one of the best teams this program has ever seen, and we proved that. I couldn’t have asked for a more fantastic season,” says Tam.
The coaching staff, which consists of Varsity Blues men’s football players Joe Cappiello, Michael Leslie, Sam Delage, Sam MacMillan, and Nick Stadnyk, got a lot out of coaching the women’s team this winter.
“No matter if you are coaching a tyke team, a professional team, or a university level girls’ football team, you are not only there to provide lessons that they can learn to better their performance on the field, but you are also there to become friends and mentors to them off the field, to give them skills that they can use when their playing careers are over,” says Collins.
This season, the Blues faced some challenges and different forms of adversity, but the women dug deep and battled through; they were aided by their tremendous dedication, heart, compassion, friendship, teamwork, and resilience. They look to keep those traits and dominate the 2017 tournament schedule with hopes that some brand new faces come out and battle.
This article has been corrected from the print edition. The photo was incorrectly credited to Mahmoud Sarouji online.