7-2 season builds hope for next year, despite lack of league title
Three players went down with season-ending injuries, and another three had to sit out because of pregnancies this season. And the Portland Shockwave had been pretty mediocre, anyway, in their first four years as a member of the Independent Women's Football League.
But Portland's women of the gridiron changed their fortunes this season.
The Shockwave won the Pacific Northwest Division, going 7-1, and nearly beat Sacramento in the IWFL playoffs last weekend. The Sirens, the defending IWFL champs, won 37-27 at Lincoln High.
The Shockwave (7-2) won't have to worry about raising $30,000 this week to travel for another game, but they can take solace in their drastic turnaround. The team notched winning seasons in 2002 and 2003 but went 6-12 combined the previous two years. In the last four games of 2005, opponents outscored Portland 159-34.
Core players returned this season, QB Bonny Elder got much better at the triple option, new players brought added beef up front and the team's improvement 'had a lot to do with camaraderie,' says defensive back Rebecca Brisson, one of six five-year veterans.
'We kept the cattiness off the field. There was none of it,' says Rebecca Dawson, a linebacker who doubles as team owner. 'It was one team. No cliques.'
The Shockwave posted four shutouts - beating Eugene three times, Tacoma twice and Redding and Corvallis once - and only Santa Rosa beat the team in the regular season, 33-27 in overtime.
Despite the best efforts by rival Corvallis Pride and their followers, the Shockwave nearly pulled off the upset in Saturday night's playoff game. The Pride traveled north to Portland to root for Sacramento and against their own Northwest playoff representative.
Down 27-22, Sacramento needed to score two fourth-quarter touchdowns - a 3-yard run by 5-6, 200-pound Jennie Ann Quan and the clinching 25-yard run by speedy Michelle Kahler -to advance.
Elder had three TD runs. 'We call her a gazelle,' teammate Ann Hoffman says. Lisa Lum had the other Portland touchdown, along with a gutsy 59-yard run in the fourth quarter after twice suffering leg cramps. But the Shockwave could not convert a potential tying field goal after the run.
The Shockwave want to win the whole thing next year, if everybody returns. Who doesn't return? 'That's the $64,000 question,' says Diane Dukeshire, the mother of former Benson star athlete Drew Dukeshire. 'Ask us in February,' Lum says.
The Shockwave have some players long in the tooth: Dukeshire (42), Lum (43), Tonya Reigle (46), Megan Vanden Berg (41) and Hoffman (41). But fresh blood helped the cause, particularly up front in the form of Kaysie Donat (5-6, 220), Anna Tankersley (5-3, 180), Lisa Elliot (5-6, 180) and Temeca Applin (5-9, 215). And some players might return from injuries and having babies.
'We had unity this year,' Dawson says. 'We had the potential and athletic ability, we just couldn't get over the hump before.'
'We just believed in each other,' Brisson says. 'Our coaches said we never let a bad play get to us. We kept coming back.'