The University of Toronto’s Powderpuff Football team hosted its first home tournament on Saturday and competed against teams from York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
Each school had a veteran and a rookie team competing at the tournament. Despite a disappointing ending, both U of T teams have a lot to be proud of and showed the school what powderpuff football is all about.
The opening games saw York pitted against UOIT. The York Lady Lions played great defense and made two interceptions en route to a 12–0 shutout win over UOIT’s veterans in the first game. Not to be outdone, the York rookies showed off their explosive offense in a 20–12 victory over their UIOT counterparts.
By the time U of T stepped onto the field, the spectators had seen what the other teams were capable of and the pressure was on to put on dominant performances on home turf. Neither team disappointed the crowd.
U of T’s rookies were disciplined and well-organized, allowing them to shut down the potent York offense. The team earned a 19–0 victory in what was their first game together as team.
The veterans emulated their teammates, shutting out UOIT in a 18–0 win. Their performance eclipsed that of their York rivals to set up one of the most anticipated and exciting fixtures of the day.
The bitterness between the two teams was evident from the start; the physicality and emotions ran high. Tempers flared on numerous plays, and the referees had a difficult time controlling both sidelines. York’s offense took control of the game first in what was an evenly matched contest.
“We were doing poorly on offense at first, and then all of a sudden, we sparked for a bit,” said coach and team president Patrick Yan.
One of those sparks came on a third down; U of T quarterback Natasha Zervoudakis connected with Danisha Payne for a touchdown pass the length of the field to put U of T ahead. York responded quickly, and with time winding down, they held a 14–11 lead over the hosts.
“It came down to the last decision,” explained Zervoudakis. “It was fourth and 20 and we were pushed back, and I just said ‘Hey, let’s kick it to try and tie it up.’ It was at least a 40-yard field goal [attempt].”
Despite the distance, they made the kick, ending the game in a 14–14 tie.
“We definitely played well, we were aggressive and we tried hard,” said captain Jessica Ventura. “But we’re a better team than what we put out there; I feel like we could have done a lot better.”
The U of T veterans finished with a 1–0–1 record, giving them a bye into the semi-finals as the number two seed. The rookie team beat out their teammates to the number one rank after winning their second game 14–0 against UOIT.
In the quarter final round, both York teams beat their UOIT rivals to earn rematches with U of T in the semi finals. Unlike the emotional first encounter, both veteran teams maintained their composure in a game that would ultimately be decided by defense. York’s defense intercepted the opponents early, giving the offense a good field position. A questionable offside penalty against the U of T defense resulted in a first-and-goal for the visitors.
U of T’s defense responded by completely shutting down their opponents’ offense. The hosts broke up a passing play on first down and stopped two rushing attempts to force York to attempt a field goal which they missed, keeping the score 0–0.
The hosts then made it into the end zone but the touchdown was called back for a holding penalty, and U of T had to settle for a field goal. The defense continued to stifle the opposition’s offense and with less than four plays left in the game, they intercepted York to seal a 3–0 victory and advance to the finals.
The rookie match-up played out differently from the first installment as well. This time around, York built up a 14–0 against the U of T rookies to start the game. But U of T wouldn’t go down that easy. They came back and rushed for a touchdown, but missed the conversion, closing the gap to 14–6.
U of T scored again and made the conversion on this occasion to tie the game up at 14–14. The hosts failed at a subsequent field-goal attempt and the game would be settled in overtime, when York ultimately pulled out the victory.
Despite the loss, the U of T rookies remained positive and were proud of their performance in the tournament.
“We originally thought we were going to be one of those B-teams that doesn’t play very well, but we’ve developed so well,” said Hayley Max-Lino.
“A lot of the girls on our team, including myself, have never actually played football before … The other [team’s coaches] just said ‘Okay, we just want you to play hard.’ But honestly, we just showed them what we’re made of. We kicked some ass and we have nothing to be ashamed of.”
“I’m really proud of my girls,” said coach Jermaine Felix. “They did their job, they did exactly what we asked them to and they did it really well, and they did it with style. I can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Despite the loss, players and coaches are excited for the future. Delays through the day meant that the final between the U of T’s veterans and York’s rookies took place later than expected and with no lights. The game thus went into overtime rules within the first few minutes, and York won, taking the trophy.
Despite falling at the final hurdle, the U of T Powderpuff Football team has a lot to be proud of from their first home tournament.
“It was well organized I think; there are just a few administrative things we should have done better,” noted Yan. “For our first tournament, it went great, we attracted six teams and it can only grow next year.”