In a semi-final match to be played at Center High School in Kansas City, MO on Saturday, the Chicago Force face the Kansas City Tribe, 7-1 in regular season play. The winner advances to the Independent Women's Football League Championship match to be held later this month near Austin, Tex.
“This is a huge deal,” Quarterback Sami Grisafe said. “There is a lot of rivalry (with Kansas City. It is) a good team with a few standouts such as Rusty Sowers and Megan Penrod.”
“We won one and lost won (to Kansas),” Defenseman Amanda Malsch said, “we're out for revenge.”
“It's the biggest game of the year,” Kansas City Owner/ General Manager and Player Mindy White said. “I'm happy for this showdown (between) two teams that have among the highest yards per play in the league... We're expecting (the Force) to come out with their guns blazing.”
And so, if you're planning a trip to Austin, Tex. this month, you might receive directions that take you through Kansas City. Kansas City is a bit of a detour, adding about 100 miles, on average, to the journey, but it is a necessary stop on the road leading to the WIFL championship for the Chicago Force.
Grisafe, a 24 year-old resident of Lakeview, said the team is getting ready mentally for the game, noting that the Force handed the Tribe its only loss this season. “We found hunger in Seattle,” Grisafe said of the team's post-season victory June 27 over the Seattle Majestics. “I think we're really going to shine (against the Tribe). If we can execute the way we were coached to execute; and execute the way we CAN execute, then we're going to be glorious.”
“I've played five seasons and I've never been so proud to play with a team,” Malsch said. “Last year a lot of us were wide-eyed and happy to just make it to the championship game,” Malsch, a 34 year-old resident of Edgewater, said of the 2008 championship game the Force lost in overtime. “This year we expect to be there,” she said confidently. “We've prepared for it. We feel confident going in. Our sites are set on Austin. This game is some (business) we need to take care (to get there).
“When we played last year,” Malsch said, “the planets had aligned just right. But this year we are in it to win.”
The Force, 6-2 in regular season play, with away losses only to the Detroit Demolition and the Kansas City Tribe, would be in their second championship final if they defeat the Tribe. Made up of women living and working in the area, it is a genuine home town team. Grisafe said the Force has become a family and wants all of her teammates with her in Kansas City. “We're not playing in front of thousands of fans. There's a vibe (to the game). You feel it inside you and from the stands,” she said.
“You need that support. For (the) Seattle game we could only afford to bring a few players and the front office,” she said. Force officials said the team fielded about 22 players, enough for two lines in the Seattle quarter-final game. “It was so expensive. But everyone has a place on this team. Even if they're not on the field, we notice their absence. It is a huge burden” when a player can't make it.
“The home/ away thing is tough,” Malsch admitted. “No one draws (crowds) like the Force. And we're going to take a lot of our fans with us. There is a huge sense of camaraderie and teamwork,” she said noting that fans feel that they are part of an extended family. “Every single starter wants every single player there (in Kansas City).”
“For Kansas City we're trying to get everyone to go,” Grisafe said. “It's difficult for a women's sports (team because) we're not just dealing with the game but also with the financial aspect of paying our own way to the event. As a (team) family we're trying to dig deep and help everyone get there.”
She said team members were using every available transport from Mega Bus to car pooling to get to Kansas City. “This is our second run for the finals,” she said, “we have a feeling of unfinished business.”
Although the Force admit they have a lot of respect for the Tribe, team members said they were surprised to have lost in their away match against Kansas City. “It's a mental thing to overcome the past, to not take the past into consideration,” Grisafe said. “There's a lot of things that contributed to our loss against KC, including the travel... injuries.” Grisafe said the team had been studying the Tribe's play and had come up with new counters to its fast style of play.
“Chicago has a balanced approach,” White, a 31 year-old resident of Mission, Kan., said. “Last game most of their touchdowns were passes. But we have a very exciting offensive match up. The Tribe is feeling (pumped) from their (post season) win over the Los Angeles Amazons.”
Both teams have a lot of depth and noted their offensive skills. “We're mentally and physically prepared for the game,” Malsch said. “We're well prepared (to counter) their passing game.”
The match is set for Saturday, July 11, 6 P.M., Central Time at Center High School; 8715 Holmes Rd.; Kansas City, MO 64131. The Force is seeking contributions and other help to assure all the players are able to attend the game.
Quarterback Sami Grisafe scoring a touchdown in a previous game against the Kansas City Tribe/ By Scott Renshaw (Chicago Force)
Amanda Malsch catching a two-point conversion pass in an earlier game against the Kansas City Tribe./ By Scott Renshaw (Chicago Force)