Season Preview Part VII - Womens East

The biggest development in our great game, not just in Australia or here in the USAFL, but all around the world, has been from women’s football.  Indeed, a professional league now exists, state leagues in Australia are growing, and hundreds – if not more – of grass roots programs have sprung up and are already weaving themselves into the fabric of the sport’s community.

No fewer than 22 USAFL clubs have a women’s program as 2019 gets underway, and there is always the possibility of more, as we’ve seen in the past.

In the East, it’s a tale of a former champion being reborn, smaller clubs poking the eyes of goliaths, and the big club from the big city bringing more spirit and talent at both the club and country level.

We begin our three part look at USAFL Women’s – and our seventh overall – with the Beasts of the East.

WOMEN'S EAST REGION


2018 Nationals:                 n/a

2019 Outlook: After a nine-year absence, the Atlanta Koobaurras women’s team has returned and it’s great to have the 2005, 2006, 2007 National Champions back in the fold.  The rebirth of the team is a direct result of club president Wayne Kraska’s build strategy around the social and metro programs over the past several seasons.  Though their first game of the year was a loss to a Nashville program that has been growing swiftly, there is a lot of promise in the core group that is the Kookas’ renaissance.  Young gun Shaunna Chamlee has shown a lot of promise in the early going, and she’ll be teaming up with Columbus veteran Megan Hils, and Melbourne-born Virginia Nugent. – BB


2018 Nationals:                 0-4          5th Place, Division 2 (w/ Boston, DC, & Des Moines)

2018 Recap: Though the Baltimore Dockers and DC Eagles had officially expanded into their two sides in late 2017, the Baltimore-Washington relationship extended on the women’s side for one more season, and in 2018 it was veterans Alex Pike and Karen Stablein, along with newcomer Kristin Poti, who were key ingredients in the Baltimore/DC/Boston victory over New York and Columbus in the Eastern Regionals, with Pike being named best on ground.   At Nationals, the Baltimore crew fought valiantly alongside their three familiars despite the 0-4 record. - BB

2019 Outlook: Stablein and Roxanne Alei will carry the black and orange flag forward for the Charm City women at the Freedom training squad camp in August, and Poti will be back this year as one of the division’s up and comers.  The Dockers will most likely play most of their season alongside DC once again, but the Dockers will be in Sarasota once again and the talent they have is a building block towards the future of women’s footy in Baltimore. - BB


2018 Nationals:                 0-4          5th Place, Division 2 (w/ DC, Baltimore, & Des Moines)

2018 Recap: Much like the rugged New England coastline, the Boston Lady Demons’ season was craggy, but with brilliant beams of light emanating from it.  An early season injury forced defensive rock and Liberty rep Cailin Deal into retirement, but her knowledge of the game was invaluable towards helping develop a group of women still learning the game.   A winless trip to Montreal as part of the women’s tournament there was turned ‘round at the end of June, when they supplied a half dozen players to the Eastern Regional Championship effort over New York, and again over the Magpies with DC in the East-West Showdown.  With deft utilities Diane Welch and Christina Glynn leading Boston’s charge, the Lady Dees teamed up with the Eagles, Dockers, and Lady Dippers to comprise an inspired performance in spite of the winless result. - BB

From the team: “The Lady D’s are looking to the 2019 season as a building block to the future. The Lady D’s expect to bring the most to their partnerships with other Eastern teams this season. We have two women at tryouts for the national team and we hope that their experience on the larger stage can contribute to the continued growth of our already experienced squad.”

Key Matchups: “The Lady D’s have two early season games in New York and Montreal that will serve as benchmarks heading to Nationals in October.”

2019 Outlook: Another year of building up the red-and-the-blue is ahead of the Demons, who will lock horns with and then join their sisters down in the Mid-Atlantic Wheelhouse.  While players like Welch, Glynn, and the effervescent Katie Rhee are still relatively new to the game, they have helped build up the team on and off the oval.  The big pickup of the offseason will be Liberty product Alex Pike, who is familiar as both a teammate and a foe of the Lady Dees.  Pike’s experience across the back line will be key in combating the opponents from this competitive Eastern Region as we go through the season and onto Nationals. - BB


2018 Nationals:                 2-2          Runners-Up, Division 2 (w/ Chicago & Philadelphia)

2018 Recap: Just like Al Stewart sang in the 70’s, is was the “Year of the Cat,” in Columbus; the season where the old Jillaroos turned in their black-and-pink for blue and white hoops.  They teamed up with rising Philadelphia at regionals, and their effort on a sloppy surface was worthy of praise despite the 0-2 ledger.  Though they would not register any wins on their own, the Cats steadily improved, and the relatively short trip to Racine ensured that Columbus rolled deep into Nationals.  History hadn’t been kind to Columbus since their women’s side reformed in 2014, and the script seemed written again after a two-goal opening loss to Texas.  But with a win over DC on Saturday afternoon, there was hope.  The hope grew after a stunning 9-3 upset over fancied Calgary on Sunday morning, which set up a virtual Grand Final with Sacramento.  The “KittyHawks” gave the Suns/Angels and company everything they could handle but fell, valiantly, by 11 points.  All was not lost, however, as the Cats got second based on percentage, giving Columbus, and veterans such as original Jill Stephanie McKitrick, their first ever women’s medal. - BB

From the team: The women's side is looking to build off the momentum created from taking home the runners-up medals at Nationals in division 2 to gain some new numbers to get over the line this year. Most of the list from last year will be coming back so we will have a good foundation to help any new recruits get up to speed. The club is looking to hit the recruiting trail hard to bring in some new faces and we will be looking to hopefully outfit a full side and bring home the division 2 flag.

Key Matchups: July 13th @ New York against NYC and Baltimore/Washington. These two sides are always a good measuring stick being two of the better teams in the EAFL, it will be a good contest for our women to see how far we have come and what work needs to be put in as we build towards Nationals.

2019 Outlook: Now that they have a medal in their back pocket, Alan Gardner’s side will try and get another one, this time of the gold variety.  There were positive signs in a season opening loss to the Toronto Centrals Blues this past weekend at home.  Katrina Scherer, having gone to Queensland for a spell at Bond University and almost literally set fire to the goalposts with her goal kicking, is already looking in midseason form.  Liberty veteran Stephanie Shipley-Snyder also looked impressive in the opener, and McKitrick, who normally plays full back, can platoon further up the field if needed. - BB


2018 Nationals:                 0-4          5th Place, Division 2 (w/ Boston, Baltimore, & Des Moines)

2018 Recap: An important, if not underrated fabric of USAFL women’s football has been the lady Eagles; beginning with Amy Bishop back in 2005 and all the way through to now.  They came off of 2017 having brought their largest ever women’s footy contingent to Nationals.  Having for years being in the shadows of some of the other clubs, they finally emerged when, teaming up with Baltimore and Boston, they knocked off Columbus/Philly and New York to take out the Eastern Regional title.    They pulled off another win alongside Boston at the East-West Showdown, and went to Racine seeking to challenge for their first ever national title.  DC brought 15 strong to Wisconsin, and though the results weren’t there, the endeavor was, and many positives were taken from the four matches they played. - BB

From the team: "2018 was a great year for the Baltimore Washington Eagles, including winning the Eastern Regionals championship. This year, the women are following the men in separating into the DC Eagles and Baltimore Dockers. Despite this split, the DC Eagles are poised for a great run in 2019. Offseason recruiting has been strong and the talent level and energy continue to rise. Coach Mike Hoffman's charges are looking to repeat as Eastern Regional champs and bring home the hardware from Sarasota."

Key Matchup: "The key matchup this year is June 29 at New York. The Lady Pies have been a dominant force in the East, and a win on their home ground would be a strong statement."

2019 Outlook: Eagles soar, and these women have gotten off to a flying start with an emphatic home victory over the Magpies.  Four Eagles were named as part of the Freedom Training Squad; hard hitting Kendall Jennings, exciting rookie Mackensy Medlin, athletic wonder Christina Sobral, and defensive dynamo Kristin Lough.  Medlin is one piece of a promising new class of players that includes Chelsea Porter and Alexandra Clayton.  Third year players Molly Halberstadt and Miriam Mehter are also back and add more speed to support both side of the ball.  It would be great to possibly see DC bring a full team to Sarasota for them to compete in D1, but if not, whoever they get paired with in Div 2 will be playing alongside some championship contenders. - BB


2018 Nationals:                 4-0          Premiers, Division 2 (w/ Sacramento & Wisconsin)

2018 Recap: AFL Quebec’s women’s program took a giant leap forward in 2018 with the addition of the Montreal Bluebelles, expanding the metro competition from which Les Anges are drawn from.  Alas, they won just two matches during the regular season against other clubs, the first of which came in bad conditions in Yonkers on ANZAC weekend over the Magpies.  Despite going 0-4 in their annual home tournament, the Angels went to Nationals looking to erase the disappointment of the 2017 Nationals, when they went 0-3 in their D1 debut.  They would bring 11 players down to Wisconsin and play beside the Sacramento Suns, a team looking for redemption in its own right, as well as the nearby Wombats.  With Valerie Moreau (Essendon) and Caroline LeDuc (East Fremantle) providing experience that complimented that of Sacramento, the SunAngels raced out to a 3-0 record, then faced Columbus/Philly/Chicago for the title.  Against arguably their toughest opponent, Moreau paced her club to their first ever National Championship medallions and collected two of her own, the Roos and Coopers’ Medals, in the process. - BB

From the team: "In Sarasota the goal is for the Angels to represent in Division 1 with a full squad equipped with more footy knowledge and style of play to contend for the US Nationals Championship" - Chris Shee, Head Coach

Key Matchups: "The Montreal Angels always look forward to the annual Women's Tournament in Montreal where talent from all over the North East corner. This year should be a little different in that the tournament proves to be even better! Lot's of teams have committed and securing a field close to town has improved the likelihood of a ripper after party! The Angels are looking forward to the chance to compete together and become an even stronger team."

2019 Outlook: Footy in La Belle Province continues to grow and the tournament that AFL Quebec holds, featuring the best in the women’s game from the Northeast, is one of the biggest dates on the footballing calendar.  Following their D2 title, the Angels’ goal is to get a full side to Sarasota and to compete in D1 again.  They will most likely be doing it without Moreau, who did her ACL as part of preparations for the upcoming VFLW season with the Southern Saints.  That said, there is more to them than “Rocket,” as was evidenced by the spread in votes received at Nationals.  Tall target Joanna Rutkowski continues her improvement into a well-rounded football player, Larissa Andrusyshyn’s rugby and Gaelic backgrounds rate her as one of the most coordinated players in Canada, let alone Quebec, and Isabelle Senecal brought pace to the lineup last season.   Here’s hoping we do get to see this talented group in those amazing purple jumpers play in the top tier again. - BB


2018 Nationals:                 0-3          6th Place, Division 1

2018 Recap: New York City is a place of constant generation.  Energy, money, culture, there is always something new blooming from that long, slender island on the Hudson and its accompanying boroughs.  2018 was about generating a winning culture for the future, forged through experience in games up and down the East Coast and onward to Nationals.  A 2-1 record at Montreal was an early high point for Christina Licata’s side, and though a bruising loss to Baltimore-Washington/Boston in the Eastern Regional final stumbled them, they would finish the year with two more wins against Eastern foes, and then built momentum in the East-West showdown against San Francisco and their oriental neighbors.  Seeded third of the three teams in Pool A, it was always going to be a challenge against San Francisco and Seattle, who it turns out ended up meeting in the Grand Final.  Their arm-wrestle loss to Portland in the consolation match was a testament to the will of the team, however, as they could hold their heads high with three solid performances on the weekend. - BB

From the team: "The only way we can go is up and we're ready for it.  Because of all the cultural work we invested throughout the 2018 season, we've never lost so well. This year will be about translating that unity to the football field and creating results.  With a healthy group of veterans returning and keen interest from athletes throughout NYC (check out the numbers at our first training @newyorkmagpies), the Pies are gearing up for a turnaround season where we'll experiment, take risks, and learn along the way. Staying static never works and our club is up for the challenge."

Key Matchups: "While the women always mark San Francisco and Montreal as our key competitors in the regular season, both the men and women will be challenged by a Denver side traveling to the Big Apple in September. We're thrilled to see some new talent and mix up the competition on the East Coast." 

2019 Outlook: This year will be an important one for Licata and the Magpies.  No matter what their record ledger has read in three years since going runners-up in 2015, the most important aspect has been the positivity that Licata and the ‘Pies coaching staff has instilled, something that “T” has already done for the National team since being named coach in October.  Though two veterans, including Drea Casillas (pregnant) and Lauren Skonieczny (Portland) will be missed, the potential in New York for this season runs higher than those buildings that they always seem to be working on when I’m up there.  No less than eight players are on the national team training squad, punctuating how good recruitment has been to compliment the Australians who will don the famous black-and-white jumpers.  Amy Arundale comes across from Philadelphia to add speed and a scoring touch to the midfield to compliment Danielle Gallagher, Lara Musser, and Aussie duo Jani Boal and Jess Taylor.  New York boasts a steely defense behind the potent and passionate tackling of Grace Koplow and athletic play of Taylor Davidson and Natalie Wolff.  Emma Kading and Andrea Hargrave will also be important, as their on-ball play should spur Clare Algozin and Kim Hemenway on the attack. - BB


2018 Nationals:                 2-2          Runners-up (/w Columbus & Chicago)

2018 Recap: It’s possible that the Lady Hawks might get used to this whole “going to Nationals and coming home with a medal” thing.  For the third straight year, Philly finished in the top two in D2.   After a regular season that saw 2017’s rookies become frequent contributors, the Hawks joined Columbus and Chicago and provided pace and defense to compliment one of height and attack.  Rookie Lindsey Turse and Liberty member Erica Sacci were instrumental in the “KittyHawks” 2nd place finish, and both were among the best on ground in their victories over Calgary and DC to get set them up in that final match vs Sacramento.  The best story for the team, however, was Barb Dempsey, 47 years young, taking out the team best and fairest with a steady string of reliable defending. - BB

2019 Outlook: With Dempsey on the sidelines due to injury to start the year, and uriginal Lady Hawk Amy Arundale going to the New York Magpies, the Hawks’ recruiting at the end of last year and beginning of this year will be important on and off the pitch.  One such talent is Ro Drumgoole, who will bring her rugby background across to the footy field in support of a team that excels at stopping the ball. Turse and Sacci were both named to the Freedom training squad and both have legitimate shots at playing in Australia next year.  Jackie Kershaw impressed with her toughness on the field, Lauryn Kelly was arguably one of the most improved players across the entire league, and Leslie Gertner, who joined late last season, has picked up the game in flash. - BB

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