Players from Oxford Saints Women’s team represent at 2018 BAFA Diamond Series
The 2018 BAFA Diamond Series saw the UK divided into three teams who battled it out in a round robin tournament to claim the title. Previous tournaments saw just a North and South team compete against each other, but strong growth in Women’s football has allowed for a 3rd team to be introduced. The newly founded Heartlands Shock featured several Saints, fighting against the Southern Blaze and Northern Blizzard. The competition was expected to be fierce.
Three full day practice sessions gave players the opportunity to work as a team and for many of our Saints, this was their first taste of 11 a side football. Eight players took up the opportunity, Megan Brown (LB), Sophie Marshall (LB), Heather Bignell (RB), Josie White (RB/WR), Aislinn Baird (QB), Annie Moreby (WR), Natt Webb (OL) and the experienced GB lineman Monica Lewinska who swapped over to OL to shake things up! Coaches Adam Baker and Luke Fry also took up the reigns of positional coaching for the Heartlands Shock, leading the Linebackers and Running backs respectively.
After some gruelling practice sessions in the UK heatwave, Josie White was named as a Captain for the Heartland Shock, which was testament to how far the Saints Women’s programme has come in the last 2 years.
The first gameday was full of individual achievement and team disappointment as the Shock struggled to hold up against the physical Blaze and Blizzard teams. With the final game called early due to injury, the Shock were left with a frustrating loss against both teams. However, the big step up to 11 a side was taken on by the Saints Women with determination and guts. As expected, Monica Lewinska dominated on the line, leaving huge gaps in the Blizzard’s defense to allow Luke Fry’s running backs to chew up some yards. Aislinn Baird also made huge ground with her powerful arm gaining valuable yardage, which was impressive for a first year rookie.
Megan Brown continued to show bravery beyond her size at Linebacker and seemed to take to the 11 a side game with ease until an unfortunate concussion took her out of the series in the second game. Josie White started in her familiar position of tail back with fellow team mate Heather Bignell at full back but the Blaze’s sneaky addition to the Diamond playbook left them stranded in the backfield and struggling to get into space. As the starting Kicker, Bignell made better use of her foot in the first round of games whereas White stepped in at slot, found space and scored the first touchdown for the Heartlands Shock.
Final scores for day 1:
Heartlands Shock 8 – 15 Southern Blaze
Northern Blizzard 14 – 12 Heartlands Shock
After two weeks off, the Heartlands Shock were back with a point to prove. It was clear that without the experienced players evident in Blaze and Blizzard, it was going to be a day of learning and determination. In the first game against Blaze, the Shock brought a new energy and shut down their D line. The most notable change to the Shock’s O Line was the improvement seen in Saints Centre Natt Webb who stepped up her game at left tackle and held off players twice her size. Lewinska on right tackle continued to blast through the Blaze D line and was asked to play both sides of the ball due to injuries, considerably increasing the Shock’s threat.
Bignell also showed improvement from the previous games and delivered a picture perfect punt that was annoyingly returned half way up the field. Josie White found her stride again at tail back and also made some valuable yards on kick return that started the best and final drive of the game and ended in a touchdown and 2-point conversion. However, at the end of the first game, the Shock were still without a win and with the opportunity to play the final 2 minutes of the previous Blizzard game, they were fired up.
Unfortunately, it was not to be, much to the disappointment of everyone on the Shock sideline. The Blizzard game was another hard fought battle and similar to Blaze, the addition of some cheeky additional plays ran up the score and left the Shock without the win they wanted.
Final scores for day 2:
Southern Blaze 15 – 8 Heartlands Shock
Heartlands Shock 0 – 28 Northern Blizzard
Whilst the Saints Diamond team didn’t get the desired result, the experience was fantastic and has given our players the opportunity to take on talented athletes in the Blaze and Blizzard teams. The Oxford Saints congratulate the Southern Blaze on their well earned win and look forward to facing many of the players at the Sapphire Series tournament.