Welsh Family looks to send seniors out in style
Mia Berry | Friday, November 18, 2016
Welsh Family has amassed a total of three championships in three years.
It earned two back-to-back ‘B’-league championships in 2013 and 2014. Not to be outdone by the ‘B’ team, the ‘A’ team recorded a runner-up finish in 2014 before winning it all in last year. A victory Sunday would mean four championships in four years for seniors Mari Tumminello and Colleen Finley, who played on both teams throughout their careers.
Senior Catherine Levy admitted that the team felt some pressure to build on last year’s championship momentum earlier this year.
“Early on in the season, we did feel some pressure,” Levy said. “We lost some key players from last year’s team, added two new coaches and changed the playbook. We felt some pressure as everything was settling into the new system, but it was only short-lived. We are as confident as ever heading into the championship game.”
While dealing with early-season pressure, Levy praised junior quarterback Caroline Puntillo’s efforts and performances.
“Our quarterback, junior Caroline Puntillo, has stepped up,” Levy said. “She has a lot of pressure on her at all hours of the day because she’s our only quarterback, and if a play goes wrong, it all lands on her, but that hasn’t been the case. She’s stepped up her game and been performing really well, and we’re proud of her.”
Attempting to defend their title, the Whirlwinds (7-1) finished strong with a 5-1 regular season record, their only loss coming to Breen-Phillips, which they later avenged by beating the Babes in the semifinals. In response to their one loss of the season, Finley said their loss to Breen-Phillips was a surprise but needed.
“We had a pretty strong regular season,” Finley said. “Our only loss was to the Babes, but it served as a good wake-up call for us. We came out of that game with a new perspective on our plays and what it would take to get back to the stadium.”
All of the seniors agreed that playing in the stadium never gets old, but Allie Smith in particular had her own unique take on the experience.
“The best part about playing in the stadium is running out of the tunnel and seeing the entire stadium open up as you step onto the field,” Smith said. “There aren’t really any words that can describe that feeling. You have to experience it.”
Welsh Family and Ryan are no strangers to one another, as both teams faced each other earlier in the season. Welsh Family ultimately came out with a 19-7 victory, and Levy said she felt that win was the Whirlwinds’ best of the season.
“I think we played really well against Ryan our last game,” Levy said. “Obviously, they’re one of our toughest opponents since we’re playing them again in the championship, but we still played solid, and I think we had fewer penalties that game. That’s one of the biggest challenges for us, and we were really focused and determined.”
Despite an early victory against the Wildcats (7-1), Welsh Family isn’t taking their matchup with Ryan lightly. Senior Francesca Mancuso praised Ryan’s defensive efforts from the last time the two teams met.
“Last time, [Ryan] put up a very tough defense against us,” Mancuso said. “I think [we just need to] break down their defense by getting our passes and runs in.”
Senior Sharon Chiang agreed and said she fully believes her team will be successful in defending its title.
“I think it’s definitely going to be a tough battle, but I think we’re going to come out with a ‘W’ in the end,” Chiang said.
Heading into their final interhall game, the seniors also began to feel sentimental in looking back at their four years on the team.
“Our success over the past four years just goes to show that this group of seniors — and the rest of the women — have been extremely dedicated to learning the sport and improving every year,” senior Ariel Navotas said. “As you can see, we take flag football really seriously, and we’re happy that the hard work and dedication has paid off. This has been a family for us the past four years, and I’m so grateful for what each woman has been able to bring to the team.”
During Sunday’s championship game, Chiang said she expects the Whirlwinds will have lots of support from the stands.
“We’re hoping for a huge crowd and a lot of support,” Chiang said. “Our friends know how much flag football means to us, and it’s our last time being able to play together.”