The men’s and women’s flag football national teams competed in the USFTL National Championships in Tampa, Florida, earlier this month.
Building on last year’s success in the B division, the women’s team entered this year’s tournament in the A division. They faced the challenge of playing against top-10 ranked teams and went 1-2 for the tournament. One of the games was a win over DawkSports from Canada, which finished third in the A division last year.
Despite the loss of their first game to the No. 2 team in the nation, the Cayman women did not allow the team an easy win. The women moved the ball better offensively, according to a press release, but were plagued by two costly mistakes that allowed their opponent to score on each. After the tournament, the women’s ranking moved up to tie for ninth in the nation.
“I feel the women played at a very high level and showed that they were able to match the competition on the field,” head coach Brendon Malice said in a press release. “I feel a lot of this is a credit to the way the sport has grown locally and also due to the buy-in of the team to practices and the coaches’ processes.
“The only thing I can say that I felt the team lacked is the experience of playing together for a good length of time, and unfortunately we are unable to do that. However, despite that these ladies went out there with heart and competed and left everything out on the field.”
Both coaches, Malice and Clayton Lopez, said that their best moments at the tournament, other than watching the women play on the field, was being approached by numerous coaches about their views on how the team has grown and progressed. In the four years before last year, each trip to this tournament produced 0-2 results, causing the women to be knocked out after their second game. This year they contended until the third round, knocking out previous champions.
Last year the women’s team was named USFTL National Champions in the B division, becoming the first Cayman team on the men’s or women’s side to make it that far in the tournament, and not only go undefeated, but clinch the title.
Some of the core players were unable to travel with the team due to injuries. New faces on the squad this year include Carly Dignam (Deloitte), Latoya Cover (JTC Group) and Bernadette Beckles, among others.
“I believe that’s the key in all of this – getting new players out that want to compete on a higher and more competitive level,” said player Maggie Ebanks.
The men’s national team, coached by Clayton Lopez, also has a number of new players this year, as a number of core players were unable to make the trip. Entering in the nine-man B division, the men’s team faced off against four teams from around the United States, but lost all four. The team saw players such as Jonathan Allen step up and shine in a position he has never played before, the press release states. Other players also added to the momentum at different times. Despite not being victorious, the men’s team feels that they have left with an understanding of what they need to work on, the press release states.
The teams thanked their sponsors for all of their help.