Professional sports franchises from St. Louis and Chicago have been tussling against each other all throughout the week. In the NHL playoffs, the Blues and Blackhawks have tangled non-stop while the Cardinals and Cubs have renewed their respective baseball rivalry with the early-week, three-game series.
It’s only appropriate that the two cities’ respective women’s tackle football franchises continue that trend this weekend.
Returning to home play Saturday night, and looking to maintain traction in their Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) regular-season schedule, the St. Louis SLAM competes against the Chicago Force at Lindenwood University’s Belleville campus (2600 West Main, Belleville, IL). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The SLAM (1-1) suffered its first defeat two weekends ago in a 36-26 road setback to WFA American Conference – Midwest Region rival Kansas City.
St. Louis has faced numerous challenges early in the campaign, especially in the aforementioned Show-Me State donnybrook, and plans on using the lessons learned on the gridiron to future benefit this Saturday.
“We’re a young team,” assessed SLAM defensive standout Tiffany Pugh. “We have a lot of rookies on our roster that have never played football before. However, we also have a lot of talent amongst both the rookies and veterans. The rookies are hungry and eager to learn and the more, game day experience that they are able to gain, the better we will be.”
One newcomer that has made an immediate impact is SLAM quarterback Jaime Gaal, who has completed 25 passes for 594 yards and ten touchdowns through two games. Key targets have been returnee Keyonna Smith, who has snagged four scoring receptions, while Danielle Brock, Chelsey Clay, and Kaylee Neutzling each have a pair of touchdown catches.
With SLAM starting running back Taylor Hay out with injury, Raven Williams has handled most of the carries, collecting 115 yards and two touchdowns through two games.
Defensively, veteran defensive back Jelani Kelly paces St. Louis with 21 tackles followed by Brooklynn Bastain’s 15. Pugh, Brock and Alana Fields have contributed to the stubborn SLAM defense that recorded a shutout in its WFA season opener.
Pugh says her team knows what it needs zero in on as it heads into its Saturday turf battle.
“As we prepare to play Chicago, I think we need to improve most on our focus and discipline,” Pugh said. “Chicago is a good team and we cannot afford to make mental errors. This game could be very easily come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes.”
Misfires come few and far between for the 2-0 Force, a perennial entrant in the WFA post-season. Chicago easily outgunned West Michigan (58-6) and Indianapolis (52-0) to notch two straight dukes.
Offensively, quarterback Rachel Gore and running back Tamika Robinson have already collected impressive results through two games while the Windy City’s defense is propelled by standouts Kelsey Casey and Tami Engleman.
Arguably, Chicago’s pair of wins was against lower-caliber squads compared to the SLAM. St. Louis’ Pugh knows that the stakes are high this Saturday if her squad wishes to return to the WFA post-season.
“(The Force) has a long history of fielding good football teams,” she said. “This game will be one of our toughest battles of the season. We respect them as a team and as an organization, but we do not fear them.”
A tight contest is the SLAM’s missive…but a home victory is craved.
General admission tickets are $13 and the franchise is holding a “Military and First Responder Appreciation” special where active duty, veteran, retired military and first responders, and their respective families, can purchase tickets at the gate for $5 apiece.
For more information on the SLAM, go to stlslam.com.
Arch City Sports will be there Saturday night for coverage and we’ll have a full recap posted on Sunday.
(Writer’s note: the SLAM was previously scheduled to face Minnesota this past Saturday. Minnesota elected to suspend operations for its 2016 WFA season on late-notice and, as a result, the SLAM was awarded a victory via forfeit, and technically improved to 2-1. However as of this writing, the WFA still has St. Louis listed on its official website with a record of 1-1.)