Third time lucky

MWFL:  Third time the charm for jubilant Capital Area Lady Gladiators

With KV Field as the backdrop for a 26-14 win over the Saint John Afterburn Storm, there was a feeling of redemption among the valiant and victorious members of the Capital Area Lady Gladiators. Having been on the losing end of the MWFL championship game in 2011 and 2012, the squad was looking to make their title dreams come true this season.

Facing an undefeated Saint John Storm franchise, a championship ending was going to be a hard-earned one. Despite the obstacle, it was the perfect setting for an ambitious and hard-working Lady Gladiators franchise.

As the Lady Gladiators and the Storm are the two charter franchises in MWFL history, it was only fitting that the two would face each other in the title game of the league’s tenth anniversary season. For Lady Gladiators quarterback Alex Black, the most decorated played in MWFL history, it only enhanced the experience of grabbing the title.

“Winning the championship this year was very gratifying. Losing out the past two years was hard but it was the icing on the cake to win in the 10th anniversary of the league.

It was a different season this year; with players around the league away with Team Canada commitments. Peaking as an athlete, all came together at the right time for myself. As a team the girls were very determined to bring the championship trophy back to the Capital Area and we did (pauses), and it was awesome (smiles).”

Armed with faith and belief, the Lady Gladiators dug deep to make their dreams a reality. With several new faces on the roster, along with several players, (Alex Black, Kristen Chatterton, Robyn Neill and Cheryl O’Leary) representing Canada at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, the road to glory was a hard one at times.

“This year was different as nothing else (but the title) mattered. We had a rough start with a lot of new players, plus the members from our team going to Worlds. Yet, we gelled together like Jello in the week before semifinals and we manage to squeeze a win which led us to the championship,” remarked Tammy Nash.

Having contributed to the Lady Gladiators as a player and a coach, Cheryl O’Leary has been involved with the team since its earliest days. Having seen the team (along with the MWFL) grow and evolve, she has also had a role in the unique rivalry with Saint John.

“There has always been a little competitive rivalry between the Saint John and Fredericton teams, largely due to the fact that we were the original two teams, ten seasons ago.   The Lady Gladiators have been practicing hard week after week and peaked at the right time this season.

Facing the undefeated Storm meant we had to be physically and mentally prepared for a battle and that is what we got. Coaches often tell players to leave it all on the field and we definitely played that way that final game with one goal in mind, to win that championship title.”

The jubilation of a 26-14 victory over the Storm was one that held strong meaning for Nash. A veteran of over a half-dozen seasons, she is also among the rare group of athlete who gets to call one of their children a teammate.

“The win on Saturday was a dream for me. I am 38 years old and I been play this sport since 2006. I have had the opportunity to play with some great ladies and finish my years playing with my daughter (Abby Nash) who was nominated as a League All-Star.”

Having been part of several championship teams in her early years, the opportunity for Nash to win another was nearly taken away. Suffering from injury, her courage exemplified the extra mile that the squad employed to finish on a championship note.

“We won the championship in my first two years. At this time, I was heartbroken that I may not be able to play because I had an ACL injury, but I healed enough to help the Lady Gladiators pull off the championship. This team dug deep and worked as a team, which is why we are the Maritime women’s Football champions.”

In reflecting on the championship victory, Black is also appreciative of being named to the All-Decade Team. Having excelled in the league since her teens, she has grown with the league over the seasons. Humble and proud, Black is quick to recognize the women of the gridiron that helped shape the league.

“I am very lucky to have been around from the start and witnessed how the league has grow and share in the success of this Maritime league. There are a lot of strong female athletes who will continue to make this league more competitive.

There are a few senior football players on my team and they are an inspiration. They have stuck with the team since the beginning and have demonstrated their commitment to this league so my hat goes off to them for also receiving all decade awards as well.”

With 11 Lady Gladiators players named to the MWFL All-Decade Team (including Black, Chatterton and Neill), O’Leary was also recognized for her volunteer duties with the franchise. While winning the title during the milestone tenth anniversary season provides a much more special meaning, she is equally proud of the superlative work the league has done in recognizing the pioneers who laid the foundation in the early years.

“Winning the SupHer Bowl Championship game in the10th season of the MWFL was amazing.  The MWFL executive and teams have worked tirelessly to promote our league this season, paying homage to players, coaches and volunteers who have had significant impact over the past 10 seasons.

Along with the fact that the MWFL began with the Fredericton and SJ teams made this a significant win for the Capital Area RV World Lady Gladiators.  We are both humbled and proud.”

 “All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credit:  Jason Quackenbush – Jason Quackenbush Photography

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