It’s been a long, patient wait for the St. Louis SLAM women’s professional tackle football franchise.
As the 2016 National Champions of the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) Tier II Division, the Gateway City’s gridiron goddesses have been eagerly awaiting the defense of their title that was claimed last July.
This Saturday, the missive for back-to-back trophies begins as the SLAM kicks off its campaign in a road contest against the Indy Crash at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. Kickoff is set for 7 PM Eastern.
Established in 2003, the SLAM snared their second national title last summer with a victory over then-unbeaten Tampa Bay. St. Louis’ 36-7 thumping of the Infernos netted the SLAM, who finished 2016 with a 7-2 record, their first trophy since 2009.
After tasting championship fruit last July, the SLAM are fully aware that they will be “the hunted” by WFA opposition this season.
“There are always going to be expectations after winning a championship and we know that we have a target on our backs,” said SLAM running back Taylor Hay. “So, of course, we are preparing to execute each play, every game.”
The SLAM’s eight-game regular season kicks off in the Hoosier State as a representative of the WFA American Conference – Midwest Region. According to Hay, the team is chomping at the bit for Saturday’s opening snap.
“We’re very excited, especially since we are returning with a majority of the championship team from last year.” she enthusiastically said. “That’s in addition to some talented rookies that will definitely see some time on the field!”
Numerous SLAM veterans return to the fold. Alongside the aforementioned Hay, rushing will be supplemented by Candice Watkins and Chelsea Clay. Quarterback Jamie Gaal had 19 six-point passes in 2016 while connecting with receivers Keyonna Smith, Kaylee Kneutzling and Kim Kinsella.
St. Louis’ seasoned offensive line, anchored by Juan Snow, Caitlin Erickson, Marion Ball, Antonnia Washington and Myrt Davis, are primed for another tour of winning duty in the trenches.
The SLAM’s defense, paced by returning starters Raven Williams, Tiffany Pugh, Jelani Kelly, Robyn Morrow, Pamela Green, Brooklyn Bastain and a host of others, are intent to hold the Crash to minimal points.
In short, the complexion of this year’s roster contains a plethora of players that currently sport 2016 WFA National Championship rings.
“I think having the majority of the team back will allow us to continue to build where we left off,” said Hay. “Then sprinkle the rookies in to fill the voids from those players who did not return. It also keeps the team mentally stable.”
The SLAM recently conducted their annual pre-season scrimmage and the results were bountiful.
“It is usually to see what the rookies can do and where we need to go from there,” assessed Hay. “Personally, (the rookies) have caught on quickly and are executing nicely!”
Saturday’s season-opening opponent, the Indy Crash, finished last season 4-6 and made the WFA Tier II post-season tourney. In the pair’s meeting last season, the SLAM claimed a 35-18 road win and Hay feels that the SLAM’s launcher should be a solid test.
“Indy is always a good team whether they have twenty players or fifty,” she said. “They have a solid core group of vets who really hold the team together. We’ve always respected Indy and their organization and I think it will be a great game. We are definitely looking forward to the battle!”
For the “orange and black attack” Saturday, a dominant win sets the tone for another positive push in the quest of back-to-back titles.
The SLAM’s home opener takes place at Lindenwood University’s Belleville, Illinois campus on Saturday, April 8 against WFA Region rival Madison.
For more information on SLAM football, go to their OFFICIAL WEBSITE.
Arch City Sports will have a recap of Saturday’s posted on Sunday.