Women’s Interhall Football: Phoxes open season eager to return to finals
Griffin Dassatti, Jered Jedick, Peter Reisenaur, Matt Gamber and Sam Werner | Friday, September 14, 2007
Last season’s two regular season undefeated teams face off in the opening weekend of women’s Interhall football as Welsh Family battles Pangborn Sunday at 5 p.m.
Both the Whirlwinds and the Phoxes finished their 2006 seasons with perfect 4-0 records. Welsh lost in the semifinals, while Pangborn made it to the final where it lost to Pasquerilla East – the team they defeated for the title in 2005.
Led by their co-captains, senior Kelly Bushelle and junior Jenni Gargula, the Whirlwinds are excited to begin the season with the majority of last year’s team still intact.
The Phoxes, on the other hand, return only two players from last year’s second-place team – sophomore captain Meghan Bescher and junior Ashley Hardy. These two are all that remain from a core group of juniors and seniors that led Pangborn to an impressive 2006 season.
Bescher said the team is comprised mostly of freshmen, something that she thinks will make the season, especially the first game, interesting. For one thing, the Phoxes’ strategy will be one based on fundamentals.
“We’re simply trying to implement a basic offense and just get that down,” Bescher said. “[Our goal] is to just be efficient and try to win. Honestly, this first game we’ll have to see where we are. We have a good group of athletic girls and a ton of great coaches helping us out … The freshmen are just really excited to play that first game.”
The Welsh captains, on the other hand, said they are very secure in the system they’re going to run. Their strategy for the past week, though, followed that of Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis – everything tactical is kept under wraps. The team’s objective, however, is quite clear.
“We’re not going to give anything away,” Gargula said. “We’re just focused on beating Pangborn.”
The Welsh Family captains said last year’s offense was primarily based on the pass. Anything more in depth than that, though, and Bushelle acted like Weis has in the past, keeping mum about anything remotely related to strategy.
“We’re just going to do whatever works for us,” she said. “We’ll see what they give us and attack their weaknesses.”
McGlinn vs. Howard
The Shamrocks and Ducks will face-off Sunday at 2 p.m. on Riehle Field in a matchup of two up-and-coming teams in the Blue League.
High hopes and lofty expectations swirl around these two squads who have not had a dominant season for some time.
Coming into the new season, the Shamrocks are confident they can have the kind of success they have long craved.
“We have a good mix of veterans and new people,” senior captain and defensive back Taryn Lewis said. “I don’t want to make any predictions for the coming season, but I think we can handle Howard. I think we can win.”
The Shamrocks have good reason to be confident, with strong quarterback play expected from junior Sarah de Groot and veteran presence on the line from junior Katie Zedler. Mixing the veteran presence with their freshman additions has the Shamrocks excited to bounce back from a disappointing season last year, a year Lewis said she and her team are eager to forget. Lewis said the team hopes to unleash “an explosive offense,” and have that offense carry them deep into the postseason.
Standing in the way of that Shamrock offense is a veteran Howard defense. Two years removed from a winless season, Howard is looking to build on a much improved outing last season and ride their defense to a strong performance. The Ducks boast a healthy squad of returning veterans on both sides of the ball, highlighted by athletic juniors Kate Sylvia, Christina Sensbaugh and Maddy Zollo.
But the question marks on this team lie with the offense, in particular, with its unsettled quarterback situation.
“We are hoping to bring in some strong and accurate throwers to replace our former quarterback of the past three years,” Sylvia said.
To be successful, the Ducks are going to need to play to their strengths and have some of the new faces on the team to step up. No starting position has been completely decided or set in stone. The Ducks hope this competition will bring out the best in their squad.
Making a fast start is important to both squads, but they have not lost sight of what the game of football is all about and are certain to provide a captivating matchup.
“I think it’s going to be a good game with both teams trying very hard,” Sylvia said. “It’s going to be fun.”
Pasquerilla West vs.
Defending champion Pasquerilla West begins its quest toward another title this Sunday against the Babes of Breen-Phillips.
Pasquerilla West was able to finish its season in the stadium for the second straight year, and the expectations are no less for the team this year. Senior Tina Martinek said the Weasels have to resolve their biggest concern, which rests on the offensive side of the ball.
“We have to make sure to establish a new quarterback.” Martinek said. “We need to make sure that she feels confident and comfortable back there.”
Martinek is also happy about the experience her team has.
“The seniors are providing some good leadership for the freshmen who haven’t played before,” she said.
Martinek highlighted senior Anne Fournie as a defensive stopper but refused to reveal any more of her secret weapons.
“You will have to wait for Sunday,” Martinek said.
The Weasels face a stern test from the Babes, who return many offensive starters from a disappointing finish last season, in which they lost their final game to Welsh Family 19-0. However, Breen-Phillips captain junior Melissa Meagher believes the defense is ready to step up and lead the Babes to victory.
“We are young on defense but every player is intense and aggressive” Meagher said. “They are fast and go for the ball.”
Meagher said her team plays sound, fundamental football.
“[Our players] cover their positions the way the coaches taught them to, and our girls remember their assignments on offense and defense.”
Both teams are confident they had sufficient time to implement their plays and have the personnel to challenge for the league title, but Martinek said the Weasels have the experience to do it again.
“[Breen-Phillips] didn’t win [the league title] last year,” Martinek said. “We did.”
Badin vs Lyons
With a win in Sunday’s season opener against Badin, Lyons can match last year’s win total – but they will have to do it against a Bullfrog team coming off consecutive Gold league playoff appearances.
Despite last year’s struggles, which included a loss to Badin, Lions senior co-captains Katie Mackin and Judith Kaczmarek have seen encouraging signs in the limited time they have had with their squad.
“We’ve only had two practices, so I don’t really know what to expect,” wideout Mackin said. “We do have a lot of leadership, so we should be pretty strong.”
The Lions, according to Mackin, will have a senior-dominated roster but do return sophomore quarterback Claire Connell. Kaczmarek, a mainstay at middle linebacker, should be a force on the defensive side of the ball.
This cast of returnees, which is under the leadership of four new coaches, will be accompanied by a lightning-quick freshman Mackin called her “secret weapon.”
To counteract the Lions’ attack, the Bullfrogs will rely on a host of youngsters making their Interhall debuts.
“Our juniors and seniors have some good experience, but we have a lot of talented freshmen,” junior quarterback and co-captain Katie Rose Hackney said. “A couple of them played flag leagues at home, though, so it’s definitely nice to have girls who have actually had experience.”
One of the Bullfrogs biggest receiving threats will be senior co-captain Kristen Sobolewski, but Hackney will utilize the array of skilled players at her disposal.
“We should be pretty well-balanced,” Hackney said. “In the past, we’ve had one or two good receivers, but this year we have a lot of different options and targets we can hit on any play. Hopefully we’ll use that to our advantage.”
While both teams have high hopes heading into a fresh season, only Hackney jumped at the opportunity to voice a prediction.
“We’re definitely planning on finishing in the top four of the league and at least going 4-2,” Hackney said. “I’d say that’s pretty bold for us.”
Pasquerilla East vs. Walsh
Both the Wild Women and the Pyros hope to get their respective seasons off to a good start Sunday when they face off at 1 p.m. at Riehle Field.
Walsh looks to build on a team that, last season, came within a point of defeating eventual champion Pasquerilla West. Senior quarterback Mary Sullivan and receivers Megan Hadley and senior captain Marie Brenner return to the Walsh offense.
Defensively, cornerbacks senior Julie Campbell and junior Cindy Brenner hope to shut down any opposing passing attacks this year. For these returning players, the ultimate goal is simple.
“The seniors would like to return to the stadium,” Brenner said. “The seniors were there as freshmen and would really like to get back there this year.”
In addition to the returning upperclassmen, a number of talented freshmen and sophomores hope to contribute to the team this fall. Brenner is confident the Wild Women will use this youth to their advantage
“We want the juniors and seniors to be the leaders to this team and demonstrate how to play Walsh football,” Brenner said.
Brenner noted that although last season’s tough loss to Pasquerilla West is in the back of their minds, they hope to use it as a confidence booster and a reason to be optimistic about the new season.
“We have a new and fresh outlook for a new season,” Brenner said.
Pasquerilla East hopes that, after a few disappointing seasons, an influx of young talent will revitalize the Pyros.
“[We want to] get the Pyros back on track,” senior captain Caroline Nally said.
Despite the relative inexperience of her team, Nally is optimistic about the upcoming season.
“We hope the younger players can draw from the wisdom of our upperclassmen,” Nally said.
The group of younger players includes the eventual starting quarterback for the Pyros. The team is still trying to decide between three freshman signal-callers for their opening game.
No matter who the starter is for Pasquerilla East, she will be aided by the return of sophomore receiver Tara Pillai, P.E.’s top receiver last year, and senior Laura Hansen, who anchors both the offensive and defensive lines.
These players are vital to the Pyros success this season, as the team’s main goal is to inject more life into an offense that struggled for the past few seasons.
“Our defense has always been pretty consistent,” Nally said. “But this year we hope to get our offense going early. We want to become a threatening scoring force.”