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Women’s Interhall: Experience, youth drive championship teams

Brian Plamondon | Thursday, November 21, 2013

When No. 1 Pasquerilla West and No. 2 Ryan clash Sunday, it will be a battle of two undefeated squads that have had their sights set on Notre Dame Stadium all season.
Both teams are confident due to past success – Pasquerilla West has made the semifinals the last two seasons, though they were cut short of the stadium, while Ryan lost to eventual champion McGlinn last year in the playoffs.
The makeups of Pasquerilla West (8-0) and Ryan (7-0-1) are strikingly similar. A core group of seniors leads each team, but a wealth of freshmen also contribute. Both teams have quarterbacks playing the position for the first time.
The Purple Weasels rely on senior quarterback and co-captain Rachel Rogers to direct the offense. Rogers said it was a challenge for her to transition from receiver to quarterback.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Rogers said. “But I have some great receivers and lineman that really protect me. Really the whole offense has been awesome in helping me make the transition.”
The Wildcats, on the other hand, entrusted their quarterback duties to freshman Kathleen Conaty.
“After we lost a four-year starter at quarterback, [Kathleen] has just been great,” senior receiver and co-captain Maddie Swan said. “All of the freshmen have been unbelievable, really a huge asset to our team.”
Playing in such a big game, nerves might be a factor. However team chemistry also plays an important role, which is something Pasquerilla West does not lack. Five of the Purple Weasel seniors met through flag football their freshman year, and now they all live together off campus.
“Flag football has been the glue that has held us together,” senior offensive lineman Megan Raden said.
The seniors said they are eager to get back to the stadium, where they played as freshmen.
“Playing there is unbelievable – there’s nothing quite like it,” senior linebacker and co-captain Breezi Toole said. “Just to be on the field, where so many amazing people in Notre Dame’s history have played. It’s the closest a girl will ever get to being on the Notre Dame football team and definitely the coolest thing I’ve done since I’ve been at this school.”
While Pasquerilla West’s road to the stadium has been rather easy, winning by an average of 22.5 points, Ryan’s has been more of an uphill battle.
After a tie with Pangborn in the regular season, the Wildcats found themselves down in their semifinal game against them. In the end, Ryan pulled out a 19-13 victory.
“We were really able to stay calm the whole game,” senior offensive lineman and co-captain Andrea Carlson said. “The first game against [Pangborn], we got a little flustered after they scored on us, but [Tuesday] we were really able to come back.”
Players on both teams said their semifinal games were far and away their favorite moments so far this season.
“Coming off of a tie with Pangborn was very frustrating,” Swan said. “We really came out with a vengeance and showed we could succeed.”
For the Purple Weasels, their semifinal had a single season-defining moment.
“We had a one-armed catch by freshman receiver Monica Busse,” Toole said. “Just a huge play that reminded me of why I love playing flag football so much.”
All of the Pasquerilla West seniors said they agreed their flag football careers had been a fun ride.
“Playing with these girls and watching the freshmen experience this great of a season has been inspiring,” senior safety Maria Harmon said. “It has been such a blessing.”
While both teams have enjoyed the season, they did not forget they are playing for a championship Sunday.
“Pasquerilla West is a great team,” Conaty said. “We need to focus on what we’re going out there to do and play to our strengths.”
Contact Brian Plamondon at bplamond@nd.edu