Xplosive performances

Xplosion team awards celebrate the season’s finest performers

A key component in building team morale and strengthening the bonds between teammates, the Halifax Xplosion has awarded their 2014 honors. A total of 12 players were bestowed with awards, recognized for their commitment to bringing quality football to the only women’s football club in Nova Scotia.

Setting the tone was Michelle McLeod, whose experience is complemented by a remarkable humility. Honored as the Most Valuable Player, she is quick to point out that it is an award that was worthy of many others on the squad, “It feels good to be named MVP on a team which has so many great players. It could have gone to anyone really.”

One of those players could easily have been Lyndsay Murphy. Winning the Offensive Line MVP awards, she worked tirelessly to provide protection for newly named quarterback Dianne Ikeda. Traditionally, a defensive player, Ikeda was thrust into the new role and her courageous performance was certainly attributed to the strong leadership that Murphy provided on the offensive line.

Despite facing the challenge of becoming the team’s quarterback, Ikeda embraced it with a determination that resulted in being named the Offensive MVP. One of the most demanding positions in football, lining up behind centre brings with it the requirement to not only lead, but remain composure in difficult situations. The belief that her team showed in her was a boon for the first-year field general,

“I was unexpectedly thrown into QB a week before games started. It was a huge challenge for me coming from defense last year — where I knew I was having a huge impact — to offense, where I felt like I did not know what to do. Yet my coaches and team stood behind me. They encouraged me all through the season and gave me confidence in my new position. The MVP offense award just validates that they all appreciated the effort I put into the position, despite the lack of points we put up on the scoreboard. I could not have done it without everyone helping me out.

One of the spark plugs on the Xplosion defense, Emily Armsworthy was named the recipient of the Defensive MVP award. It was a most worthy selection as the 2014 campaign resulted in Armsworthy taking on a bigger role for the defense, truly growing into a leader,

“Having been selected for this award really means a lot to me. I definitely experienced increased pressure this year to really step up and have a big (laughs) presence on our defense, especially with one of our core defensive players having an unexpected move to the offensive side of the ball (offensive MVP, Dianne Ikeda, QB).

My responsibilities (and sometimes even position) changed game to game this year, it was challenging but I had a lot of fun while being able to learn new skills and improve my play.”

Another significant contributor to the Xplosion defensive unit was Rhea Munro. Earning the Defensive Line MVP nod, it was a remarkable point of pride for the five-year veteran. Having already earned the team’s Rookie of the Year award a few seasons ago, this current award is testament to her commitment to the game. Among a rare group of empowered women that are playing the game past the age of 40, she is proving that age is simply a number,

“Getting the D line MVP means a lot to me. I started playing for the Xplosion 5 years ago. I was 40 years old then and there were a fair share of people who did not think someone my age (who already had arthritis in many joints) should do something so tough. (Yay for having no one take issue with the fact that it was women playing football!)

I managed to take home Rookie of the year and a league award for offence. Each year has been a little harder physically for me as my joints have gotten more painful. They have also been more rewarding. I have played many positions in both sides of the field and done well in most of them, formed wonderful friendships, and have the satisfaction of reinforcing that I can do whatever I set my mind to.”

Tasha McMaster, who was also worked tirelessly off the field for the ambitious franchise was recognized as the Most Sportsmanlike player. Always aiming to setting a positive example, her positive attitude definitely results in a welcome presence,

“Getting this award this year was great in that it reinforces that what I work towards as a player shows. I like to win as much as the next person but I also just love to play and have fun. I always love to hear that the other teams enjoy playing us. I think it is important to find the balance between being a competitive team and a fun team to play. Respect on the field is important to me and I am proud that it shows.”

Terri Smith-Fraser was among a group of veterans that earned honors. Of note, Katie Horne was the winner of the Veterans Award while Sarah Ingraham added the Unsung Hero Award to her football resume. Angela Howell finished her season with the Coaches Award, while Alanna Keats included the Most Improved Player Award to her trophy case. For Smith-Fraser, being recognized as the Most Dedicated Player was very satisfying,

“Receiving the Most Dedicated is super special….so I am pretty psyched about it. I think anyone who is involved in Women’s Football right now, has got to be dedicated (laughs). So getting this award really is an honor….and awesome football shaped beer glass for trophies, who would not want one of those!!”

Rookie of the Year honors went to Brittany Atkins. An undersized player with the heart of a giant, her willingness to learn and ability to bounce back from mistakes provided her with the wisdom of a veteran. Of note, Terri Smith-Fraser commented on Atkins’ determination,

“She took what she was taught and applied it and had a great season as our strong side corner. This girl is smart, quick, not afraid of contact, and has great hands. She will definitely be a player to watch.”

As the sun rises on Atkins’ career, the sun possibly sets on another. With the reality that today’s generation of female football heroes balance careers with athletics, Munro is one such hero that may have to hang up her helmet.

“Sadly, I will likely be moving away for work, so this year is probably my last. I love that I have gone from making an impact on offence to making an impact on defence… sort of feels like I’ve done it all, so I have no regrets…”

Despite the sullen feelings that come with such an announcement, the heart and character that Munro brought to the gridiron sets the standard for so many others to follow. Hoping to set such a positive example is Emily Armsworthy. As she reflects on the season and the obstacles that only strengthened the bonds between teammates, her praise of coaches and teammates alike is the embodiment of leadership and maturity that shall ensure the Xplosion have greater days to come,

“Although we had a tough season, I definitely see this as a building year for us and I am just happy I was able to contribute what I could on the field and am so lucky to have been so greatly supported by my teammates.

Our coaches deserve a huge shout out for all their commitment, dedication, and ability to make the best out of sometimes very challenging situations. I feel truly honoured that my team has selected me as their defensive MVP for the 2014 season. Everything we were able to accomplish on defense this year was truly a team effort, with everyone on the field contributing to successful plays.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Jason Quackenbush Photography

List of 2014 Halifax Xplosion Award Winners
*Team MVP: Michelle McLeod
*Offense MVP: Dianne Ikeda
*O-Line MVP: Lyndsay Murphy
*Defence MVP: Emily Armsworthy
*D-Line MVP: Rhea Munro
*Unsung Hero: Sarah Ingraham
*Most Dedicated: Terri Smith-Fraser
*Coaches Award: Angela Howell
*Most Improved: Alanna Keats
*Most Sportsmanlike: Tasha McMaster
*Veterans Award: Katie Horne
*Rookie of the Year: Brittany Atkins

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