Pittsburgh women's football team dominating foes
On the morning of home games, members of the Pittsburgh Passion offensive line meet for breakfast at the Waterfront Eat'n Park.
The female football players discuss game plans, share stories and form friendships.
"It's a way to bond," right tackle Danielle Lips said. "We all come from different backgrounds, but we have become very close from those meetings. When I am done playing football, I know I will have a team of friends. I lost my father last month, and Sunday (Father's Day) will be a rough day, but I know I will be surrounded by teammates who care to help me through it.
"The women on this team transfer caring for each other onto the football field. This line is united. It is always on the same page."
The line has been a big reason for the Passion dominating most of their opponents in the National Women's Football Association, going 7-0 by a combined score of 314-53. They play their final regular-season game at 7 tonight at Cupples Stadium against winless Central PA, a team based in Harrisburg.
The Passion qualified for the playoffs for the first time since their inaugural season in 2003. The playoffs begin next Saturday, and the championship game is July 21 in Nashville, Tenn.
"It all starts with the offensive line," said quarterback Lisa Horton, who has completed 47 of 86 passes for 915 yards and 12 touchdowns. "That allows us to have a great running attack, and if they key on that, then I can pass because we have great receivers with speed. We have such great game plans."
Passion coach Ron Coder, who played at Penn State and in the NFL, said the line's chemistry is the foundation of the team that is talented, deep and experienced.
The Passion have more players on their roster (65) than most teams in the league. On the other hand, Central PA has 23 players in its second season in the league.
"In most positions, we don't lose anything with our second and third strings," Coder said. "We have gotten everyone playing time this season, which will help us in the playoffs. The maturity of this team has helped us be successful this season. Many of the players have stuck around since the beginning, and we have some good rookies. And when you have good players and the other teams are not as talented and don't have as many players, it is easier to score a lot of points. It is not just about our offense, either. Our defense is good, too."
Passion player/owner Teresa Conn, a free safety, said this team has taken the best of what worked in past seasons.
"If we can stay healthy, this team can go a long way, because we have the weapons," she said. "This has been a special season, one that we hope doesn't end until (the championship game in) Tennessee."
Conn's ownership is a big reason the Passion are a success, said NWFA chief executive officer Catherine Masters. Masters said Conn lets the players know she cares about them.
"The Pittsburgh Passion is like a big family," Masters said. "They have strong coaching, inspiring ownership and do things to promote themselves on and off the field. They are certainly one of the top teams in our league in the way they do things."
Running back Torina Henley, who has rushed for 834 years on 86 carries and scored 14 touchdowns, said this team has the talent to win the title.
"This team has more talent than in the past, and we have some players who are good who came off injuries to play this season," said Henley, who has had two ACL surgeries in the past three years. "With this much talent on a team, you are going to score a lot of points. Our running game has speed and strength. I am the speed and Lyndsi (Hughes) is the strength.
"Our defense is strong and our lines are awesome. They do many things together off the field, like the breakfast meetings, and that transfers over come game time. It all starts up front."
Greensburg area Passion players, listed by position and hometown: Lori Burkholder, DB, Carmichaels Jen Cairns, RB, Donora Krissy Edmonds, DB, Irwin Jaimee Gaster, DL, Brownsville Dana Horn, OL, Lower Burrell Sherry Kring, TE, Mt. Pleasant Cristy Laudadio, PK, Ligonier Ava Nickens, DL, Belle Vernon Briana O'Toole, DB, Belle Vernon Kara Prentice, QB, Belle Vernon Kristy Salzman, DL/OL, Monongahela Jenine Suprano, WR, Lower Burrell Kim Zubovic, DL, Belle Vernon
Opponent pounding Here are the results of the Pittsburgh Passion's seven games this season: Pittsburgh 23, Cleveland 14 Pittsburgh 62, Cincinnati 7 Pittsburgh 52, Central PA 0 Pittsburgh 53, Philadelphia 7 Pittsburgh 40, Cleveland 18 Pittsburgh 44, Cincinnati 7 Pittsburgh 40, Philadelphia 0