After barreling its way back into the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) playoffs last season, the St. Louis SLAM women’s tackle football franchise returns to the gridiron this Saturday as they host the Derby City Dynamite at Lindenwood University (209 South Kingshighway, St. Charles, MO). Kickoff is at 7:05 pm.
St. Louis finished last season 6-3 in the WFA, which included a first-round appearance in the governing body’s 2015 post-season tournament. This weekend, the SLAM returns a plethora of starters that were a focal point of the team’s playoff complexion last year.
However, what is different prior to Saturday’s first snap is the complexion of the WFA American Conference – Midwest Region – Great Plains Division that the SLAM currently competes in and, specifically, the squad’s schedule. The three-team division, which includes cross-state rival Kansas City and Minnesota, finds itself one team short as Minnesota elected to bypass this year’s campaign on late notice, thus leaving the pair of Show-Me State squads as the lone active participants within the division.
The SLAM already have a pair of divisional contests scheduled against Kansas City this year, but with the last-minute subtraction of the two Minnesota games, which will result in forfeit wins for St. Louis, the team must approach all six remaining scheduled games with a “must-win” mindset if it wishes to have an opportunity to return to the WFA playoffs as the locals’ ensuing record, combined with strength of opposition played, will be determining factors for potential post-season inclusion.
The SLAM, who embarks on its thirteenth year of operation this season, eagerly anticipates its return to the turf this Saturday with both experts and newfound rookies in tow.
“We are 100% stronger than last year just based off of our depth,” said SLAM running back Taylor Hay. “Of course, we want to walk away with a ‘W.’ That’s always the plan. However, the goal is to dominate as a unit. For the rookies, this will be their first time at battle.”
Hay, a long-tenured veteran with the club, rushed for 817 yards and scored seven times in 2015. In special teams, she collected two field goals, four two-point conversions and was 21-of-23 in extra point kicks.
Manning the helm at quarterback for the second straight SLAM season is Jelani Kelly, who completed 30 passes for 775 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. Kelly also rushed for 472 yards and made six solo trips into the end zone. Receivers Keyonna Smith, Victoria Nichols and Kaylee Neutzling were Kelly’s prime targets last season.
Defensively, the SLAM is paced by the steady work of Tiffany Pugh, Robyn Morrow and a host of other veteran standouts.
A SLAM home-opening victory is the missive this Saturday and a calculated return to the WFA’s ultra-competitive post-season is the dream coveted in 2016.
“We take it one game at a time in order to (assess) both the mistakes and the good things and then prepare for the next battle accordingly,” said Hay of the team’s overall outlook. “But we most certainly expect to make a run for the playoffs.
Saturday’s opponent, Kentucky-based Derby City Dynamite, finished 2015 with a record of 0-8 but held mightily against the SLAM last season before falling 26-8.
“Derby City is a tough team,” assessed Hay. “If there is any position they lack in skill, they make up for it in power and strength.”
The SLAM, winners of the WFA National Championship in 2009, expects to start the season with a high-octane triumph and encourages those that have never experienced women’s tackle football before to see the eye-opening play that they can execute on the field.
“The time is now for women in sports,” enthusiastically said Hay. “Barriers are being broken every day. Why not be a witness to history in the making? Come to a game and support the movement. You will not be let down!”
Tickets at the gate are $13. For more information on the St. Louis SLAM, go to stlslam.com.
SLAM 2016 SCHEDULE
SAT 4/2 DERBY CITY DYNAMITE (HOME: LINDENWOOD – ST. CHARLES, MO)
SAT 4/9 KANSAS CITY TITANS (AWAY)
SAT 4/23 CHICAGO FORCE (HOME: LINDENWOOD – BELLEVILLE, IL)
SAT 4/30 INDIANAPOLIS CRASH (AWAY)
SAT 5/14 DERBY CITY DYNAMITE (AWAY)
SAT 5/28 KANSAS CITY TITANS (HOME: LINDENWOOD- ST. CHARLES, MO)