Breakthrough season for Xplosion culminates with Friendship Bowl victory

The feel-good story of the 2015 Maritime Women’s Football League season was the breakthrough of the Halifax Xplosion. Establishing franchise records for most wins and most points scored in one season, their dream season culminated with a dramatic Friendship Bowl victory over the Moncton Vipers.

With three minutes remaining, the Xplosion held a 21-6 lead, but the Moncton Vipers managed a pair of touchdowns. Reducing the Xplosion’s lead to one point, the contingent from Halifax remained their composure. As the clock continued to tick down, the Xplosion managed another touchdown, establishing some distance between them and the Vipers. With one more offensive possession for the Vipers, the defense came through, stifling the offense on a fourth down conversion.

In reflecting on the historic season, veteran competitor and team leader Natasha McMaster pointed out that a loss was actually one of the moments of truth. Despite a losing outcome in the season opener, McMaster noticed that there was a positive attitude, one which would quickly define the winning season to come,

“My favorite moment this season may not be an obvious one to most (we have had more wins and points in this season than we have had in the past 5) but it was a game that we lost. Yet, it was the first game where as a team we really came together and were able to put all of our practice and hard work into action. At the end of the game everyone was smiling and happy despite the score on the board. That is when I knew (that) we, as a team, had really turned a corner.”

Having also served in a leadership capacity for several seasons, Terri Smith-Fraser was jubilant in the Xplosion’s breakthrough season. After many frustrating seasons defined by losing, the chance to claim victory in the Friendship Bowl provided redemption.

“The Xplosion had a great season! Scoring in every game including back to back wins, a great morale booster for the team! I know it means a lot to everyone on the team, but even more so for the veterans. It has been a long time coming. This year’s Xplosion includes 17 fantastic rookies, a handful of rockin’ veterans, the best trainer that a team could ask for, and an amazing coaching staff.”

Of note, the 2015 coaching staff featured many new faces. Offensive lineman Rhea Munro noticed that the change, complemented by a significant rookie crop, helped bring about an even stronger team culture. The result was a competitive team that helped to alter the balance of power in MWFL play, ensuring that parity will likely be more prevalent next season.

“This season started after another big shakeup to our coaching staff. We lost a number of key veteran players, and had a lot of new faces in the group. It could have felt like yet another rebuilding year, but there was just a different vibe right from the start. I do not know if it was the approach of our new coaches or the attitudes of the players (most likely a combination of the two) but there was a sense of optimism and cooperation that has not always been there.

Let us start with our coaching staff: David Gould, Jacob Sampson, Daniel Mader, Erin Banbury and Marty Udall. We have never had this many people you know their football and know how to coach. There are no egos, no infighting and no undermining each other.

They may not always agree, but we did not see that. They are a united front, and that consistency sets a fantastic example for us players.”

Noticing how the coaching change paid positive dividends for the Xplosion, Smith-Fraser also had positive praise for their efforts. In a breakthrough season that saw the franchise experience unprecedented heights, Smith-Fraser noticed how the team’s self-esteem and confidence was transformed.

“The coaching staff transition was absolutely smooth. Our new head coach Dave Gould came in with a plan for this team. He put it, and us to work, and we ended up scoring and winning. As an added bonus, he brought with him his lovely wife Karen (who competes on the defensive line).

Returning coach Dan Mader, as well as new coaches, Jacob Sampson and Marty Udall have done such a great job with this team. They started with a team that was 75% brand new to football. With a handful of rookies, and with a lot of hard work from all, and in a very short time, the coaching staff tturned us into the team we knew we could be.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indiciated”

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