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Women’s Interhall: Cavanaugh challenges dominant Welsh Fam

Sam Werner | Friday, November 16, 2007

Welsh Family and Cavanaugh took different routes to the Stadium, but both will enter Sunday’s game with only one goal in mind.

“Our season will be complete when we win,” Welsh Family captain Kelly Bushelle said.

“We’re going to come out from the beginning and play with all we’ve got,” Cavanaugh captain Lizzy Brown said.

It may take all the Chaos have to defeat the top-seeded Whirlwinds, who are 8-0 this season and have throttled their previous three opponents by a combined score of 59-0. Bushelle, though, refused to focus on her team’s impressive record.

“We’re really proud of what we’ve done,” Bushelle said. “But we’re not thinking about the past. We’re just thinking about Cavanaugh on Sunday.”

The No. 6 seed Chaos have already shown that they’re capable of an upset, defeating No. 2 seed Pangborn 18-6 in the first round of the playoffs. They followed that performance with a 12-0 win over Farley in the semifinals. Brown was confident her team won’t be intimidated by the Whirlwinds.

“You can only focus on the seeds so much,” Brown said. “On Sunday at noon, records aren’t going to matter. Whoever plays harder is going to come out with a win.”

The Chaos usually receive a strong performance from its defense, which has come up big in their first two playoff games. In the semifinals, Cavanaugh constantly forced Farley into fourth-and-long situations and forced several key turnovers, a trend it hopes to continue on Sunday.

“Turnovers are absolutely essential to victory,” Brown said. “We’re going to be looking for interceptions and hopefully our great defensive line can get some big plays for negative yards.”

The Chaos defense will certainly be tested against Welsh Family’s offense, led by junior quarterback Jenny Gargula. Gargula has thrown four touchdown passes in the playoffs, despite playing with a torn bicep. Bushelle was reluctant to attribute her team’s success to one side of the ball despite the fact that Welsh Family scored 21 points per game this season.

“We’ve really worked well on everything, both offense and defense,” Bushelle said. “I can’t really pick out one thing that’s been the reason for our success.”

Cavanaugh will be the first new opponent the Whirlwinds face in the playoffs after already defeating both Lyons and Pasquerilla West in the regular season. Bushelle wasn’t concerned about the lack of familiarity.

“We’re not really worried [that we haven’t played them before],” Bushelle said. “They haven’t played us either, so it goes both ways.”

The Chaos may not have seen Welsh Family’s talented squad in person yet this season, but Brown certainly knows what her team is going up against on Sunday.

“They’ve got a talented quarterback and a number of great receivers,” Brown said. “It’s going to come down to getting acclimated after the first couple of plays and seeing what we can exploit.”

Since they have never played each other before, both captains focused on the importance of making strategy changes during the game to take advantage of any holes in their opponent’s game plan.

“We’re not going to make huge adjustments,” Bushelle said. “But the key is just seeing what Cavanaugh brings and exploiting their weaknesses.”

It may take both teams a while to settle in to the new atmosphere of Notre Dame Stadium before they can worry about strategy. No player on the Welsh Family team has ever played in the Stadium before. The senior class for Cavanaugh reached the Stadium in 2004, its freshman year, falling to Walsh in the finals.

“Fortunately we were there in 2004,” Brown said. “We know what it’s like in the Stadium, so we’re looking at it like just another game.”

Bushelle acknowledged her team’s championship inexperience, but did not think it would have an adverse effect on its chances Sunday.

“Even though no one our team has played in the Stadium before, we’ll definitely come out focused and ready,” Bushelle said.

Brown also emphasized the importance of a strong start to gain momentum.

“It’s really going to start with coming out and playing hard in the first couple of minutes,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a tough, competitive game. We’ve all put in the work and are looking forward to Sunday.”

Kickoff is at noon Sunday in Notre Dame Stadium