KK Matheny’s competitive edge a key factor in Seattle Mist’s championship success

While the contraction of the Jacksonville Breeze truly marked the end of an era for indoor women’s football in America, several players found new homes, bringing their work ethic and love of the game. Among the former Breeze members that joined the Mist, KK Matheny and Bryn Renda comprised a superlative free agent class that also included Danica Brace, formerly of the Las Vegas Sin.

The result was an amazing gridiron trinity that brought the Mist and its proud fan base an elusive Legends Cup championship. Such chemistry blended with the likes of leaders such as Jessica Hopkins and Stevi Schnoor to help cultivate a championship instinct that transformed the Mist into the champions that they wanted to become.

From the very beginning, Matheny established herself as the field general of the Mist, bringing a newfound confidence for a highly talented team looking to reach the next level. A star basketball player at Chiefland High School, Matheny has never lost her competitive edge, and that was highly evident during the Mist season.

Image obtained from Facebook

Image obtained from Facebook

Joined on the Mist by former Breeze teammate Bryn Renda, the result was a remarkable offensive synergy. Several times throughout this season, Matheny relied on Renda for key plays, usually resulting in first downs or touchdown scores, and their familiarity shone through. Both members of the American Collegiate Intramural Sports and Fitness Hall of Fame, the two were also teammates at the University of West Florida (based in Pensacola, FL). In addition, the two appeared in the national finals three years in a row, having won championships in 2006 and 2008.

Despite losing their first game of the season, the Mist never looked back with Matheny showing the way. She proudly followed in the footsteps of former Mist quarterbacks such as Laurel Creel, second-generation player Angela Rypien and LFL Canada champion Mary-Anne Hansen, jubilantly displaying the Mist colors, while establishing her own superlative legacy.

Winning on the road against the Los Angeles Temptation, at the world-renowned Memorial Coliseum, truly signified the turning point for the Mist. After suffering a disappointing playoff loss to the Temptation in 2014, along with a visceral loss to open the season, the Mist needed to beat them in order to establish its championship confidence.

Although the Legends Cup championship would represent the pinnacle of Matheny’s career, her finest moment may have come in the Western Conference championship game. Facing the Temptation once again, Matheny displayed the poise that would set a positive tone for the team throughout the tumultuous contest. The chance to win a conference crown in 2015 represented a liberating importance to Matheny.

Unforeseen at the time, Matheny’s final game with the Breeze took place in a hotly contested 2014 Eastern Conference championship game against the Atlanta Steam. Resulting in a hard-fought loss, it was compounded by pushing and shoving in its emotional aftermath. The one parallel between the Breeze and the Mist throughout the season was that they were both highly competitive but had never reached the opportunity to compete in the Legends Cup title game.

To beat the Temptation made a very powerful statement. Considering that the archrival Temptation were hungry for a fourth league title, it represented redemption for Matheny, proving that she deserved to be looked upon as an elite quarterback able to take her team to the next level, while providing a feeling of redemption for the entire Mist organization.

No longer were such talented competitors looked upon as merely contenders. Earning the opportunity for the biggest prize in their sport, Matheny and the Mist did not disappoint. With the Legends Cup championship game taking place on home soil in Kent, Washington, the Mist jumped out to a quick 20-0 lead against the two-time defending champion Chicago Bliss.

Just like the playoff victory against the Temptation, the chance to beat the Bliss only validated the Mist’s championship effort, proving that they were truly worth of being looked upon as the very best.

As the honor of champion has been bestowed upon Matheny, she becomes Seattle’s sweetheart, emulating Russell Wilson’s great success in bringing a football championship to a highly loyal fan base. Although her passing numbers may not have been among the league’s highest, her heart, determination and team-first approach were metrics that could simply not be measured. Continuously displaying remarkable composure in high pressure situations, complemented by self-confidence, they were exceptional factors that defined Matheny’s unforgettable season.

Return to Seattle Mist brings career of Danika Brace full circle

In the aftermath of the 2014 season, Danika Brace provided an emotional and powerful farewell speech in the Las Vegas Sin locker room. Valiantly holding back tears, Brace, whose competitive spirit represented a sincere love of the game, always provided leadership by example. Of note, her farewell address was actually introduced by the commissioner of the football league.

Praising her skills on and off the field, the commissioner continued by stating that football comes and goes, but the people are what matter. With that in mind, Brace’s impact on the gridiron certainly mattered. While she was infamous among rival players for her trash talking, it sent a message to opposing teams that Brace was not to be taken lightly.

Known as the league’s premier trash talker, the only kind of talk she addressed to the Sin locker room with was one of encouragement. Her endorsement of Sindy Cummings and Markie Henderson as future superstars was definitely credible, as their first season with the Sin represented Brace’s last.

Her strong leadership with many of the Sin’s younger players included the ability to call out a player on an error. Like a playing coach, she brought acumen to the gridiron, helping nascent players grow into veteran roles. Her presence provided the Sin with that competitive edge, proving that any win against them would be hard-earned.

One remark from the commissioner did provide fans with a glimmer of hope, as he believed that she might come back one day. Such words were coincidental foreshadowing, as indoor football fans got their wish. After a stint playing football in Melbourne, Australia as one of several US import players, her competitive fire has been rekindled.

Suiting up for the Seattle Mist in 2015, it brings her career full circle. Having started her football journey with the club (winning the inaugural Pacific Cup), the experience acquired since then may yield positive dividends. Despite some difficult seasons for the Sin, Brace’s strong knowledge of Western Conference opponents makes her an invaluable resource for a determined Mist franchise looking to capture its elusive championship.

It is only fitting that a return to the franchise represents the potential for such glorious ambitions. Should Brace end the season with the championship held proudly in her hands, there is no question it shall be dedicated to her sister, Amanda.

Of note, she was introduced to the game by her sister, setting the foundation for her accomplished career. Under her sister’s mentorship, she understood the need to be competitive yet available to younger players.

Although the early aspects of her career were frustrated by the all-too encompassing realities of career and financial obligations (a common predicament among so many women in modern sport), her love of the game could not be extinguished. While her return to football in 2015 may not be classified as a comeback, a welcoming group of loyal and proud fans in Seattle are ready for another chance to appreciate one of the game’s gladiators.

Florida football star KK Matheny ready to bring elite game down under with Victoria Maidens

Quite possibly the most underrated player in the history of indoor female football, Jacksonville Breeze quarterback Kathryn “KK” Matheny is an ambassador for the game wherever she plays. Only 5’2”, Matheny is a spitfire, a pocket rocket, who brings the heart of a giant to the gridiron.

Among a group of Breeze players whose playing tenure dates back to its time in Tampa, Matheny has emerged as a franchise player. During the 2011 campaign, Matheny was among the finalists for the Offensive Player of the Year Award. She would follow it up with an All-Conference selection in 2013.

Left to right: Breeze players Saige Steinmetz, KK Matheny and Adrian Purnell make the move to Jacksonville (Image obtained from: http://www.jaxrestaurantreviews.com/events/legends-football-league-returns-jacksonville/#.VBhcAPldXm8)

Left to right: Breeze players Saige Steinmetz, KK Matheny and Adrian Purnell make the move to Jacksonville (Image obtained from: http://www.jaxrestaurantreviews.com/events/legends-football-league-returns-jacksonville/#.VBhcAPldXm8)

Following a strong 2014 regular season, which saw the Jacksonville Breeze compete against the Atlanta Steam in the Eastern Conference championship game, Matheny is ready to bring her game down under, joining the Victoria Maidens. Among a group of US import players competing in Australia, Matheny shall be joined by teammate Saige Steinmetz, along with Las Vegas Sin team captain Danika Brace and Seattle Mist running back (and 2013 Pacific Cup MVP) Stevi Schnoor.

No stranger to Australia, Matheny was part of a tour of US players who competed in a series of All-Star games there. Part of the Eastern Conference All-Star team in 2012, she was joined by Breeze teammate Liz Gorman, playing in venues such as Allphones Arena in Sydney.

While Matheny only logged 89 yards through the air in 2014, her experience and poise made her an invaluable leader for the Breeze offensive attack. The rapport between her and Steinmentz (who have been teammates for over three seasons) should translate into a memorable season for the Maidens.

Australian fans should prepare to be spoiled by a quarterback that has established herself as a star in the football mad state of Florida. Having competed in flag football at the University of West Florida (based in Pensacola, FL), her list of accomplishments are impressive. Having appeared in the national finals three years in a row, she won championships in 2006 and 2008.

She would also show great versatility in her game at West Florida, earning All-America nods on offense in 2006 and 2008, along with All-America recognition on defense in 2007. This was complemented by MVP honors at the first-ever NIRSA National Flag Football Championships along with All-Tournament honors at the 2006 UF Swamp Bowl. Such efforts have culminated with nomination into the Flag Football Hall of Fame.
Although indoor female football brings with it an association of sex appeal, it would be a mistake to underestimate Matheny as just a pretty face. Like so many of her teammates and rivals, they are college educated athletes whose approach to the game is a serious one, defined by a love of the game. As a side note, Matheny has also participated in fundraising for Breast Cancer research and is active in her local church.

Her dedication and maturity have made her a valued member of the Breeze franchise for the last several seasons. Such qualities will likely lead towards serving as a good friend and mentor for the novice Australian players suiting up for the Maidens this season. As so much of the game’s experience stems from the friendships and the preparations that occur off the field, Maidens players could not have asked for a better group than Matheny, Steinmetz, Schnoor and Brace.