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Women’s Interhall: Top two seeds face off in battle of unbeatens

Evan Anderson | Thursday, November 21, 2013

When No. 1 Pasquerilla West and No. 2 Ryan take the field Sunday at Notre Dame Stadium, each will place on the line an undefeated record and, for the many seniors that are key to each side, one last chance to be called champions.
And yet, the magnitude of the title matchup barely seems to faze either squad.
For the Weasels (8-0), the stadium is hardly uncharted territory. Three years ago, then-freshmen Breezi Toole and Rachel Rogers played in a gut-wrenching loss to Howard in the 2010 championship game. On Sunday, they will lead the Weasels out of the tunnel as senior captains. For them, Sunday’s game reeks of unfinished business.
“We have so many important seniors on this team,” Toole said. “Maria Harmon, our safety, Megan Raden and Elaine Rousseau on the offensive line, Sara Dryden and Paige Melinis on the D-Line. … P-Dub flag football means the world to us.  Hopefully everyone will be ready to step up to the plate.”
Rogers had similar thoughts.
“We’re back with a vengeance,” Rogers said.
Rogers will quarterback interhall’s most consistent offense against perhaps its strongest defense. The Weasels have scored at least 25 points in each game this season.
Sunday they face their toughest opponent yet in the Ryan defense, which tallied five shutouts in eight games and yielded opponents just 3.3 points per contest on the season.
Rogers said her team would be prepared but ceded Ryan (7-0-1) would present a unique challenge.
“I think PE [last week] was a really good opponent for us,” Rogers said. “They challenged us, and we were able to work out some kinks. We have watched [Ryan] play, and I think we have a pretty good insight as to what they are going to try to do defensively. I think we will be ready to go.”
For its part, the Ryan defense said it was every bit as confident and perhaps more so.
“We are not going to do anything to adjust to the [Pasquerilla West] offense,” freshman linebacker Shawn Hall said. “We are going to make them adjust to our defense.”
That type of self-assurance is spread across the entire Ryan team, whose collective calm might be atypical of a team whose first stadium experience will come Sunday.  
However, the Wildcats have backed up their confidence with their play this season. Behind a dominant defense and explosive offense, they launched a tour de force of their own. The Wildcats topped 40 points four times and recorded five shutouts this season. They finished the regular season unbeaten and largely unchallenged, with one notable exception.
Ryan’s only regular-season blemish was a 7-7 tie against division-rival Pangborn. Fittingly, the Wildcats arrive in the championship game on the heels of a 19-13 that seemed destined for another deadlock – the score was locked at 13 late in the fourth quarter – before freshman quarterback Kathleen Conaty threw an eight-yard touchdown pass with under two minutes remaining to take a lead it would not yield.
“When we played Pangborn the first time, and when they scored on us, … we did not keep our cool,” senior captain and wide receiver Maddie Swan said. “I think [last week], we showed that we learned from that experience. This week will be an even more intense game. … [Pasquerilla West] is a great team.”
The Wildcats’ other captain, senior offensive lineman Andrea Carlson, said her team would be ready to go come Sunday.
“We are ready for that intensity,” Carlson said. “We just have to continue to play our game. This team is so deep and so talented. … I fully believe that we are ready.”
Ryan and Pasquerilla West will meet Saturday at 2 p.m. on hallowed grounds at Notre Dame Stadium to try to stay unbeaten and become the undisputed 2013 flag football champion.
Contact Evan Anderson at eander11@nd.edu