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San Francisco Fury Wins 11th National Championship Title

By: Eliza Pugh

San Francisco Fury: 14
Boston Brute Squad: 13

In a packed stadium at Mira Mesa High School, under a cloudless sky and with hardly any wind in the air, San Francisco Fury defeated Boston Brute Squad in a bitterly exciting match between the two best women’s teams in the country. Aside from the sweltering sun causing an uncomfortable heat to come off of the turf and sweat to glisten on the players’ foreheads, the conditions were nearly perfect for the women’s championship game, a rematch of last year’s final. Brute Squad scored the first point of the game and stayed up by one point for most of the game. But Fury made a late-game comeback to tie it up, and the game ended in an exact replica of last year’s championship: Fury winning on double-game point. The final point was the last fight in a battle of endurance, with two calls that were decided by observers and an injury call. Yet the outcome would end up the same, and Fury earned its second title in two years.

Boston started the game on defense, and Brute Squad’s Lauren Sadler quickly got a bidding layout block on Fury’s Alex Snyder to put Boston up one break point and in the lead, 1-0. The game progressed with the teams trading points for a bit, with Fury running a spread offense and Brute Squad sticking mostly with a vertical stack. Brute Squad continued to throw up-line to their handlers, waiting until their downfield cutters got open. Fury eventually got their break back, but Brute Squad answered with another break point of their own off of a heads-up D by Kami Groom and an assist from Angela Zhu. Brute took half, 8-7.

In the second half, both teams’ handlers started testing out longer throws, but many were just out of the receivers’ reach. Fury’s Marika Austin (three Ds, two goals) did an excellent job of containing Brute Squad’s Becky Malinowski, a primary deep threat for Brute Squad. Brute Squad captain and cutter Liên Hoffmann was lightening quick, hitting the ground more than usual as she matched up against Fury’s tireless Opi Payne. Brute Squad was up 12-10 when Fury’s Sarah Griffith picked off two of Brute Squad’s throws in the same point, and Carolyn Finney found Lakshmi Narayan in the end zone to bring Fury within one.

Soft cap went on during that point, capping the game at 14. Fury’s intense defense put the kind of pressure on Brute Squad that they had not seen before, and they began to falter. A few Brute Squad misthrows were all Fury needed to regain control of the game. A pass just out of reach of a bidding Claudia Tajima gave Fury the opportunity they needed to convert another score. A leaping D by Fury’s Amel Awadelkarim, knocking a Brute Squad huck out of bounds, gave Fury another chance. Awadelkarim scored the bookends goal. Fury was now leading the game for the first time at 13-12. Brute scored the next one easily to tie it at 13s and bring the championship to double-game point.

Perhaps it was meant to come down to this point all along, an opportunity for Brute Squad to avenge last year’s double-game point loss or a chance for Fury to win again and defend their National Championship. The last point was long, with Fury starting on offense and marching it down the field. A throw to Finney was just out of the end zone, which gave Brute Squad a turn to work it down to within five yards of their end zone. But a mis-throw gave Fury another chance to work it back the other way, with Bethany Kaylor and Alex Snyder throwing and catching every other throw. After catching a miscued, not-originally-meant-for-her throw right on the goal line, Fury’s Opi Payne quickly dumped the disc and got it right back, in the end zone this time. The observers’ arms went up, signaling the goal, and her Fury teammates sprinted onto the field in wild excitement to swarm her.

It was a game in which two teams ran their hearts out, working each other into the ground until sweat was dripping off players’ bodies, and they were hunched over whenever there was a stoppage. One team grinded just a little bit harder than the other.

Fury’s Opi Payne summed it up after the game: “It was a war of attrition…the key was staying within ourselves and focusing on the smaller things.”