10 Female Athletes that made an inspiring impact in 2013

In alphabetical order, please find ten female athletes that helped to make a tremendous impact in 2013, while advancing the already amazing world of female sport.

Angella Goran, Cycling

Cycling across Canada in hopes of raising funds for wildlife research, she channeled the spirit of other Canadians who have ventured on the road in similar efforts; Terry Fox, Rick Hansen and Ashley Gilbank. Looking to preserve Canada’s natural legacy while looking to educate and provide various education activities on her stops, Goran is a role model to both men and women who have undertaken environmental causes.

Emma Green-Tregaro, Track and Field

While the 2013 IAAF World Track and Field Championships were a lightning rod for controversy due to issues of gay rights, Emma Green-Tregaro made a remarkable statement. Painting her fingernails in the colors of the rainbow as a gesture of support, it made worldwide news. While she was inititally warned it could be in violation of the code of conduct of the world championships, she stood her ground, inspiring men and women of any sexual preference to stand up for their beliefs.

Brittany Griner, Basketball

From the NCAA to NBA Draft speculation to the WNBA, Brittany Griner made national news on numerous stages. While her NCAA career at Baylor did not end on with a Final Four, she graduated as the all-time leading blocker among both male and female basketball players.

Speculation about the NBA Draft sparked rumors that she would become the first female selected. Although it never materialized, she would go first overall to the Phoenix Mercury in the 2013 WNBA Draft. Her debut against the Chicago Sky (which featured second pick overall Elena Delle Donne) featured two slam dunks, the first player to do so in their WNBA debut.

Sami Grisafe, Football

One of the most inspiring sporting stories of 2013 (among men and women), football quarterback Sami Grisafe finished her storied football career in grand style. Having led the United States to a gold medal at the inaugural 2010 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships, she followed it up as the field general for the US in 2013.

Her world gold would be followed up by a remarkable performance with the Chicago Force in the 2013 WFA postseason. Leading her club to their first-ever WFA National Championship, it was a fitting finish to Grisafe’s stellar career. Tackling the next role in her life, a promising musical career, her performance of the Star-Spangled Banner at the IFAF Worlds and at Wrigley Field are pulse-pounding.

Brooke Henderson, Golf

Only 16 years old, Brooke Henderson may become the Tiger Woods of women’s golf. A teen phenom who was recognized as Canada’s amateur golfer of the year for 2013, she was also featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd segment. Ranked number nine in the world among amateur female golfers, she would place third at the professional Canadian Women’s Open while placing 35 at the LPGA’s Manulife Classic.

Nikki Johnson, Football

One of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of women’s indoor football, Nikki Johnson used her star power to try and improve working conditions in her league. A former intern with NFL Films and a high school sporting legend in Nevada, her solid work ethic and leadership skills set a positive example for teammate and rival alike.

While her requests for health insurance and a more equitable setting in the league resulted in her untimely dismissal, her efforts are similar to Curt Flood in baseball and Ted Lindsay in hockey. Although she will likely return to the WFA (where she first honed her skills), Johnson is a strong, courageous woman whose principles make her a symbol of admiration and determination.

Hilary Knight, Ice Hockey

While Amanda Kessel had an outstanding 2013, in which she won the Patty Kazmaier Award and led the Minnesota Golden Gophers to an undefeated season, Hilary Knight was playing in the ultra-competitive CWHL against some of Canada’s greatest women’s ice hockey players.

With such sterling competition, Knight not only ranked third in league scoring (first among US-born women), but she would become the first American-born player to capture the CWHL’s MVP Award. She would follow it up by leading all players in postseason scoring as the Blades upset the Montreal Stars to capture the Clarkson Cup. A few weeks later, Knight (and Kessel) would beat Canada on their own home ice to capture gold at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships. Featured on a trading card in the Topps Sochi Winter Games trading card set, her star is on the rise.

Yekaterina Pashkevich, Ice Hockey

A former women’s tackle football competitor in the IWFL, Yekaterina Pashkevich emerged as the feel-good story of the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships. An original member of the Russian national team from 1993, she lived in Boston for several years after the 2006 Torino Winter Games. Making a comeback in hockey, Pashkevitch would capture the hearts and minds of fans 20 years later. As the oldest competitor at the 2013 IIHF Worlds, her acumen and leadership contributed to an emotional bronze medal for the Russian squad.

Winter Venecki, Running

In honor of her fallen father, Winter Venecki and her mother participated in marathons on every continent in the world. Looking to raise funds for cancer research, Venecki’s journey was one of inspiration and hope. Having established her own cause to raise funds, the teenaged Venecki is a great example of the great contributions youth can make to our society.

Serena Williams, Tennis

In a season that saw Williams amass an outstanding win-loss record of 78-4, she solidified her legacy as the greatest female tennis player ever. Her earnings of over $12,000,000 are the highest-ever in women’s tennis history and the fifth highest among both male and female players.

Honorable Mention: Christmas Abbott, NASCAR

As the first female full-time member of a NASCAR racing crew, Christmas Abbott is shattering barriers in traditionally male-dominated fields. Serving with the Michael Waltrip Racing Team, she is a proud member of Clint Bowyer’s pit crew. Able to change two tires weighting 60 pounds each, she paid her dues changing tires for female racer Jennifer Jo Cobb in years past. When not part of the pit crew, Abbott is also a competitor with Team CrossFitInvoke in the CrossFit Mid-Atlantic region.

Honorable Mention: Julie Paetsch, Football and Ice Hockey

One of the most influential women in Canadian sport for 2013, Julie Paetsch helped make history on two different occasions. Competing on defense with the Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, she returned from an injury in-time for the WWCFL title game. Helping the Valkyries to a victory over the Lethbridge Steel, the Valkyries became the first team to win three consecutive WWCFL titles. Of note, she would earn Defensive Player of the Game honors.

A few weeks later, she would contribute to Canada’s silver medal effort at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Recognized as Canada’s Player of the Game in the gold medal match against the United States, it would prove to be the beginning of a memorable summer. In late August, she would be selected by the Calgary Inferno in the 2013 Canadian Women’s Hockey League Draft, becoming the first women’s tackle football player taken in CWHL Draft history. In addition, she would score a goal in her debut for the Inferno.

Honorable Mention: Whitney Zelee, Football

Having helped the Boston Militia to a national championship in 2011, Whitney Zelee has emerged as a key member for the WFA franchise. While she has been working tirelessly to help the squad claim a second, her mark on WFA and women’s football history reached unforeseen heights in 2013. As the first player to log 2,000 yards in one season of women’s football, Zelee became a legend in the sport. With several performances of 300+ yards in several matches, her efforts shed a new light on the excitement of women’s football and the growing relevance of the sport.

Remarkable women’s football talent recognized at 2013 WFA Awards

One of the most historic and exciting seasons in Women’s Football Alliance history ended with the announcement of its League Award winners. With so many remarkable milestones accomplished throughout the season, the hardware heroes were all women that helped transform the game and elevate it to a new level of competition

Postseason honors featured the Most Valuable Player award from the WFA Championship Game. Three players were recognized; quarterback Sami Grisafe and wide receiver Jessica Javelet from the Chicago Force, along with Brittany Satterwhite from the Dallas Diamonds.

Having ended her spectacular career with a championship, Sami Grisafe was the emotional favorite heading into the WFA championship game at San Diego’s Balboa Stadium. She would score the first touchdown of the game and set the tone throughout. Having thrown for over 1,000 yards in the 2013 postseason, her precise passing made the difference as the Force captured their first-ever WFA crown with a convincing 81-34 victory.

Coming off a 2012 title with the San Diego Surge, Javelet would prove to be the best free agent pickup of the offseason. A former field hockey legend (who currently coaches with St. Joseph’s University), she paid remarkable dividends for the Force. In the WFA title game, she would log an incredible 225 receiving yards, complemented by 11 receptions and four touchdowns.

A jubilant Javelet with her Championship MVP award (Image obtained from : http://www.sjuhawks.com/sports/w-fieldh/spec-rel/080713aaa.html)

A jubilant Javelet with her Championship MVP award (Image obtained from : http://www.sjuhawks.com/sports/w-fieldh/spec-rel/080713aaa.html)

Christine Webb of the St. Louis Slam garnered Rookie of the Year honors. Also earning a nod as WFA Second Team All-American, Webb helped the 7-4 Slam to a postseason berth. The club would be eliminated in Week 13 at the hands of the eventual conference champion Dallas Diamonds by a 35-20 score.

Webb would lead all Slam players with 87 tackles, while ranking tenth overall in the league. Her 7 tackles for loss ranked third on the Slam while she
tied for second with 3.5 sacks, respectively.

The New Orleans Mojo were recognized as the WFA’s Rookie Team of the Year. Their first victory in franchise history would come during Week 4 as the Mojo bested the Acadiana Zydeco by a 32-12 tally.

While the team struggled through a 1-7 record in which they were outscored by a 300-38 total margin, there were some strong performances on defense. Allison Bott would lead the expansion franchise with three interceptions.

Sandra Scherberger and Yvette Schubert would emerge as defensive stars. Scherberger led the Mojo with 36.5 tackels, while Schubert was a defensive leader in three categories (tackles for loss, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries). Both would finish the season as All-America selections, with Schubert grabbing First-Team nods and Scherberger earning Second-Team accolades, respectively.

Yvette Schubert was named to the 2013 WFA All-Star Game (Image obtained from: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/yvette-sandra?c=gallery)

Yvette Schubert was named to the 2013 WFA All-Star Game (Image obtained from: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/yvette-sandra?c=gallery)

Having led his team to the WFA Championship game, Matthew Russell of the Dallas Diamonds was chosen as WFA Coach of the Year. His greatest legacy of the season may have been the sterling performance of the Diamonds defense. Having allowed only 20 points throughout the regular season, Russell coached the league’s number one ranked defense.

Owner of the Year honors was shared between two individuals; Linda Bache of the WFA Champion Chicago Force and Paul Hamlin of the DC Divas.
American Conference honors featured players from three different teams earning accolades. The one common factor between the three award recipients is that all three were First Team American Conference All-America selections.

Defensive Player of the Year nod went to Tarrah Philpott of the Pacific Warriors. Known affectionately as Tank, Philpott logged another solid season. Ranking third on the Warriors with four sacks and 59 tackles, of which 13.5 were for a loss, she also pulled double duty as a punter. In addition, she forced one fumble while recovering another.

Fundamentally sound, she is one of the rare women in professional football that is a second generation star. Her father, Ed Philpott, was a former competitor in the AFL and NFL with the Boston Patriots and San Diego Chargers.

Quarterback Chantel Wiggins of the Central Cal War Angels took home the Offensive Player of the Year Award. A former tennis star and coach with the Fresno State Bulldogs, she graduated with 63 career wins in 2002.

Former tennis player Chantel Wiggins extended her athletic career in football (Image obtained from: http://www.gobulldogs.com/sports/w-tennis/spec-rel/061406aaa.html)

Former tennis player Chantel Wiggins extended her athletic career in football (Image obtained from: http://www.gobulldogs.com/sports/w-tennis/spec-rel/061406aaa.html)

Ranking tenth in the WFA with a 94.0 passer rating, Wiggins’ 1,648 passing yards was third-best. She displayed great versatility with a storng running game that resulted in 17 rushing touchdowns, which ranked eighth overall.

The highly versatile Odessa Jenkins of the Dallas Diamonds grabbed the American Conference Most Valuable Player Award. Pulling double duty as running back and backup quarterback, she helped the Diamonds to a perfect 10-0 regular season mark.

Odessa Jenkins in action with Team USA (Image by Carey Navarette Photography)

Odessa Jenkins in action with Team USA (Image by Carey Navarette Photography)

Tying for seventh in the WFA with 18 rushing touchdowns, her 93.5 passer rating would rank 11th overall. During the regular season, she compiled 461 passing yards and 401 rushing yards, complemented by an impressive 9.8 yards per carry.

There was very little surprise when the recipients of the National Conference awards were announced. Defensive and Offensive Player of the Year Awards both went to members of the Chicago Force.

Darcy Leslie would earn the Defensive Player of the Year nod while being named First Team National Conference All-America. As she contributed to a defense that only allowed 60 points during the regular season, she racked up 49 tackles, an impressive 14 were for a loss. She would also lead the Force defense in forced fumbles while ranking second in interceptions.

The aspect that made Leslie even more valuable to the Force was her ability to also contribute to offense. Platooning at the running back position, Leslie logged 377 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, respectively.

Adding another award to her trophy case was First Team All-America Sami Grisafe. The WFA passing yards champion in 2013, she was named Offensive Player of the Year. The Force pivot led all passers with 2,582 yards, 780 yards more than second ranked Lisa Horton of the Pittsburgh Passion.
With an astounding 32 touchdowns, compared to only 3 interceptions, Grisafe led the Force to the number-one ranked offense in the WFA. Receivers
Jeanette Gray and Brandy Hatcher would rank first and second in the WFA in receiving yardage. Having racked up 495 total points, the Force offense averaged 529.4 yards per game.

Whitney Zelee had a season to remember in 2013 (Image obtained from: http://www.bostonmilitia.com/womens-football-roster.aspx?id=99 )

Whitney Zelee had a season to remember in 2013 (Image obtained from: http://www.bostonmilitia.com/womens-football-roster.aspx?id=99 )

As the first woman in professional women’s football history to accumulate a 2,000-yard rushing season, Whitney Zelee from the Boston Militia was a consensus choice. In only ten regular season games, Zelee pounded out 2,326 rushing yards.

Her 37 rushing touchdowns were far and away the gold standard among runners. Atlanta Phoenix running back Launa Sims was second overall with 24 touchdowns. Along with three receiving touchdowns, Zelee’s 40 total touchdowns also ranked first in the league.

Force moves on to title game as they defeat Militia in battle of undefeated teams

With the 2013 postseason marking the third consecutive playoff encounter between the Chicago Force and the Boston Militia, stakes were high as the winner would advance to the 2013 WFA National Title Game. As both clubs were undefeated, pressures mounted on both sides as each team employed a different offense.

A highly potent running attack led by 2,000-yard rusher Whitney Zelee signified Boston’s charge to the conference championship game, while the Chicago Force depended on the rocket arm of Sami Grisafe.

The talent on each squad was remarkable as both contributed players to the US National Team that captured gold at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Boston sent four players to Team USA; Adrienne Smith Mia Brickhouse, Victoria Eddy and Stephanie Jeffers.

Of note, nine members from the Force roster competed for Team USA. Quarterback Sami Grisafe headlined a group that featured Jeanette Gray, Brandy Hatcher, Jamie Menzyk, Elizabeth Okey, Tami Engelman, Dawn Pederson and Ashely Berggren. In addition, Force head coach John Konecki was also named as bench boss for Team USA.

Lazier Field provided the backdrop for this intense rivalry as the National Football Conference crown was at stake. Boston received the kickoff and Asia Landrum ran it back 49 yards to give the squad great field position. Unable to convert on a fourth-down play, Boston was unable to capitalize on the impressive kickoff return.

The first score of the game came courtesy of a highlight-reel play by Jessica Javelet. An exchange of punts put Chicago on their own 10-yard line. Running a sweep around the right sideline, Javelet ran for daylight on a remarkable 90-yard touchdown. It provided Chicago with the confidence to counter the undefeated Militia’s premier running game.

Having won the national title in 2012 with the San Diego Surge, Javelet would prove to be a shrewd acquisition for Chicago. She would log two more touchdowns as part of a punishing running game for Chicago.

While it is not their traditional method to run the ball on offense, it was part of a big statement against a Boston team that boasted the best running game in the WFA. Despite Grisafe’s reduced impact on the offense, she would make her presence felt. Ashley Berggren would catch a 20-yard touchdown pass from Grisafe in the second quarter, as the first half closed with a convincing 26-0 lead at halftime.

Meanwhile, Whitney Zelee, the first woman in WFA history to log a 2,000-yard season could only manage 13 yards on eight carries in the first half.
Once again relying on Zelee, Boston would wear down Chicago’s defense in the second half. Zelee would score three touchdowns as she returned to form. Touchdown runs of 5, 6 and 76 yards put Boston back into the game. Quarterback Allison Cahill would also throw a touchdown pass to Adrienne Smith.
Despite the momentum, Boston’s high-powered running game would be unexpectedly cooled off.

A half-hour delay in the fourth quarter (due to lightning) only added to the tension as Boston was looking to overcome its 39-27 deficit. Due to the rainfall, the ball became slippery as the elements became an unforeseen opponent for both squads.
Despite their best efforts, Boston was unable to come back. Zelee would accumulate 220 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards against the Force, giving them their toughest test of the postseason. Of note, the Force defense would allow 362 yards. Despite a weak run defense, the Force managed to sack Allison Cahill six times.

Boston’s hopes were squashed when Jennifer Dulski recovered a fumble in the end zone for the Force as the final was 46-27. Dulski’s ten tackles and one sack performance earned her the nod as the Defensive Player of the Game. Deirdre Hort’s seven tackles and Nakita Bowman’s five were best among the members of the Boston defense.

Statistically, Grisafe would only log 183 yards while completing 17 of 29 passes. Jessica Javelet carried the load as she rushed for 183 yards and three touchdowns. In the second half, Darcy Leslie added another 70 rushing yards for the Force, while Jeanette Gray had seven receptions.
The Force now advance to the WFA National Title Game where they will be competing against the Dallas Diamonds. The August 3 contest in San Diego will be broadcast on ESPN as neither franchise has ever won the WFA title. With Sami Grisafe announcing her retirement, drama will be high as she looks for her first-ever championship.

Boston Militia and Chicago Force on collision course for highly anticipated playoff clash

While the epic July 20 confrontation consisting of the Boston Militia and Chicago Force shall be one for the ages, there is no question to many fans that this match just might be the real WFA title game. The Conference Championship match between these two undefeated titans harkens back to the early 1990’s of NFL football. Back then, the NFC championship games that featured the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys were called by several members of the media (including Sports Illustrated) as the real Super Bowl.

From an offensive perspective, both clubs rely on completely different methods to win games. Boston is a rushing machine, led by Whitney Zelee, the first woman in pro football to register a 2,000-yard season. Having also scored 40 touchdowns, she is able to keep the Militia competitive in any contest.

On the other hand, Chicago is an efficient passing unit, led by the rifle arm of Sami Grisafe, the greatest female quarterback to have never won a WFA title. As the Most Valuable Player of the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships, Grisafe led the United States to its second straight gold medal. With a sparkling 42 touchdown passes, no lead is safe against Chicago.

A key component in the success of Grisafe is her remarkable offensive line. Rosalyn Bennett, Tami Engelman, Jamie Menzyk, Dawn Pederson and Becky Thuestad provide protection for a high powered offense that shows no signs of being contained. With such a remarkable presence in front of Grisafe, it provides her with the time she needs to pick apart opposing defenses.

The 84-0 whitewashing that the Atlanta Phoenix suffered at the hands of the Force is testament to Grisafe’s passing skills. Completing 31 of 38 passes, Grisafe scorched Atlanta with 546 passing yards and an astounding 10 touchdown passes.

After Kenyetta Grigby of the DC Divas shredded Boston’s defense for five rushing touchdowns in the conference semi-finals, it provides the Force with a blueprint on how to overpower them. With Grisafe leading such an offensive juggernaut, Boston’s defense may find itself quickly overwhelmed.

In the brief history of the WFA, the rivalry between these two has only added to the drama of the playoffs. This year marks the third consecutive season that they play against each other in the postseason. In 2011, Boston overwhelmed Chicago by a convincing 50-23 score in the WFA title game. Last season, Chicago avenged their loss from 2011 with a nail-biting 35-34 win.

While both franchises employ completely different styles to win games, their success cannot be questioned. The key factor in the rubber match between shall come down to defense. While Boston has allowed more than 100 points during the season, Chicago has allowed only 60.

Chicago uses a man-to-man coverage in their backfield, neutralizing any opponent’s passing game. Boston has managed to overcome any defensive inadequacies with their running game. Regardless of the outcome, this match is destined to be a classic, as some of the biggest stars in the game collide in a match that should provide fireworks that will become the fodder of legend in generations to come.

Boston Militia rolls on as Whitney Zelee earns another 200-yard rushing game

As the 2013 Women’s Football Alliance playoff picture intensifies, a weekend of quarterfinal action results in high scoring affairs. With several undefeated teams still in the chase for the championship, the Boston Militia are looking to stake their claim as the league’s finest franchise.
A grudge match between the Boston Militia and the DC Divas encompassed one of several July 13 conflicts. Earlier in the season, Whitney Zelee ran for over 300 yards against an overwhelmed DC opponent. Looking for redemption, DC took the first lead of the game on a 3-yard score by Kenyetta Grigsby.

Once again, Zelee provided the answer for an undefeated Boston squad not accustomed to trailing in games this season. She would touch the ball on the first play from scrimmage and it was all Boston needed. Zelee would streak into the end zone on a 51-yard touchdown run.

With the momentum quickly shifting in Boston’s favor, Vicky Eddy would pick off DC quarterback Allyson Hamlin. Lining up behind center, Allison Cahill would score on a 10-yard run for the Militia. In addition, she would also run into the end zone for a two-point conversion afterwards.
Facing an eight point deficit, Grigsby put the DC offense on her shoulders. A drive that consumed nine plays would result with Grigsby shredding the Boston defense for the touchdown.

Once again, Cahill would reply for Boston. A drive that only required three plays ended with Cahill running for a seven-yard score. While Boston extended their lead back to eight points, it would not last for long. Facing a pass interference play on the next series of plays, Boston could not answer the Grigsby running attack. She would scamper into the end zone for her third touchdown of the half, as the lead was back to just one point.
Grigsby was not yet finished for the Divas. Having successfully recovered an onside kick, the Divas were back on offense. Employing the same strategy, the Divas handed off the ball to Grigsby, who dashed into the end zone on a 38-yard run.

Before halftime, Boston managed to regain the lead. With the ball on the 31-yard line of DC, Zelee would run to daylight on a 21-yard run as the score was now 29-28 for Boston.

On the first possession of the third quarter, Boston relied on its running game. Complemented by Dorothy Donaldson, Zelee masterfully orchestrated the impressive Boston rushing attack. With the ball on the Divas’ one-yard line, Cahill popped into the end zone as the score was 36-28.

Despite the setback, DC did not panic. Employing their own remarkable running game, Grigsby continued to be the anchor of their offensive attack. Boston continued to struggle in determining how to contain Grigsby. She would continue to punish the defense as she marched into the end zone for her fifth touchdown of the game.

The turning point of the game came on the ensuing kickoff. Boston fumbled the ball and the Divas recovered. Trailing by only two points, the Divas were eager to return on offense and work towards regaining the lead. Much to their dismay, a fumble resulted in Boston regaining the ball. Tiana Liu recovered the fumble in what helped turn the tide in the game.

Zelee would run 45 yards into the end zone, nullifying any attempt at the Divas to get back into the game. With DC trailing by a 44-34 score, the offense played with panic. On their next possession, the club fumbled again as Molly Goodwin recovered the ball for a headstrong Boston squad.
The fumble would prove to be costly as Boston scored another touchdown. With two touchdowns scored off turnovers, Boston had control of the game. A demoralized DC squad was unable to get back into the game.

With 6:50 remaining, Cahill scored again as Boston enjoyed a 24-point lead. She would finish the game with 67 yards, while Zelee had another remarkable showing. She ground out 254 yards, while Tiamfook gained 97 yards. Prevailing by a 58-34 tally, Boston is one step closer towards playing for their third national championship in franchise history.