For the St. Louis SLAM women’s tackle football franchise…the magic number is currently “3.”
That would be the amount of victories the defending Women’s Football Alliance Tier II National Champions needs in order to claim back-to-back titles.
The quest for win number one takes place on home turf this Saturday at 7 p.m. as St. Louis (7-1) tangles with the Madison Blaze (4-4) at St. Mary’s High School (4701 South Grand) in a WFA Tier II national quarterfinal.
The SLAM and Blaze respectively placed first and second in the WFA American Conference-Midwest Region, thus, both squads received a first-round bye in the WFA Tier II post-season bracket.
The victor of Saturday’s SLAM/Blaze showdown meets the winner of the Mile High Blaze/Sin City Trojans quarterfinal game that leads to a WFA Tier II National Semifinal that will be held on July 8.
As defending champs, the SLAM are fully aware that they are the hunted this post-season.
“I think there is some pressure, but that comes with being champions attempting to collect another ring,” assessed St. Louis running back Taylor Hay. “We plan to use it as fuel more than anything else!”
After winning their first seven games of the campaign, St. Louis was handed their first loss of the season two weeks ago in a 44-20 road setback to the Chicago Force.
Although overwhelming in print, the 24-point loss was arguably considered a positive benchmark for the SLAM. Consider this. The Gateway City stayed competitively close against the Tier I squad that is ranked second nationally by the WFA. Last season, the Force thumped the SLAM 46-6.
The Force is a prime contender for a national Tier I title in July so to fight blow-for-blow with the Windy City rep certainly gives the SLAM optimism heading into their playoff game versus the Blaze.
“We made a decent amount of mental mistakes, so we have already broken down film and are ready to make corrections before Saturday,” said Hay. “For the rookies especially, they were able to see what a championship game will look like. For the vets, it was a reminder of what is ours for the taking.”
Hay, who rushed for 614 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season, will be complimented by fullback Mary Altepeter, who has also posted four end zone romps.
Quarterback Jaime Gaal, who was recently revealed as a WFA First Team All-American, threw for 1.238 yards and 16 touchdowns. Prime targets were Danielle Price (496 YDs, 7 TDs), Kaylee Neutzling (375 YDs, 4 TDs) and Keyonna Smith (143 YDs, 3 TDs), all three also First Team All-Americans. Also looking to make an impact are veterans Kim Kinsella and Chelsea Clay, who have each snared end zone grabs this season.
Pivotal to the offensive output this weekend is the solid line work of First Team All-American center Caitlin Erickson and teammates Tammie Moore, Marion Ball, Juan Snow and Cayci Eichmeyer, who helped the SLAM outscore their opposition, 258-93, during the regular season.
“We can’t do it without them,” Hay said respectfully of the O-line. “I like to remind them of that often too. A lot of times they don’t get the credit they deserve, but they are the foundation!”
Meanwhile the SLAM’s defensive unit looks to display the dominance that has been perpetually on point this season. WFA First Team All-Americans Smith and Neutzling are joined by linebackers Jelani Kelly, Raven Williams and Brooklyn Bastain as well as cornerback Victoria Nichols.
The defensive work of veterans Tiffany Pugh, Myrt Davis, Robyn Morrow, Pamela Green, Annie Grier and Antonnia Washington will also assist in the team’s post-season push.
The SLAM’s Saturday opponent, the Madison Blaze, claimed second place in the WFA American Conference-Midwest Division and aims for a Tier II bracket buster.
Running back Kara Haines is the work horse of the offense, racking up 617 yards and three touchdowns, while Kirsten Madisen has four end zone romps in supplemental duty.
The SLAM overpowered the Blaze, 55-0, at their home opener in early-April. In the contest, St. Louis rushed out to a 28-0 first quarter lead.
As a higher-seeded WFA Tier II competitor, St. Louis would snare home field advantage for a July 8 national semifinal game should they win Saturday.
Hay is hoping for a solid local crowd that will inevitably net a future Final Four home entry.
“I think because we (cancelled) a home game versus Nebraska due to a forfeit, that having two games at home for the playoffs will allow us to make up for that,” the tailback said. “It gives our friends and family two more chances to watch us on our road to the ship!”
The SLAM’s voyage embarks at St. Mary’s where the goal is to reduce the magic number to “2.”
“Per usual, we have to eliminate the mistakes,” said Hay. “Many of the mistakes versus Chicago were mental. In order to collect another ring, we have to be discipline and committed! I am confident that our coaches will prepare us accordingly!”
For more information on SLAM Football, go to their official website.
Arch City Sports will be in attendance and will have a full report on Sunday.