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Passion prepared to debut in brand new home stadium

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 11:09 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Passion will open their season in front of the first sellout crowd at brand new Highmark Stadium in Station Square.

They're out to end it with a berth in the Women's Football Alliance national championship game.

The Passion kick off their season at 7 p.m. Saturday against the visiting D.C. Divas.

But to hear longtime quarterback Lisa Horton tell it, the team's preparations for this season go back much further than that.

“August 5, the day after the national championship game we hosted, we were back on the field practicing and going through things getting ready for this season,” said Horton, a three-time national MVP.

“The mentality we took as a team was to work hard in the offseason and keep continuing to get ready physically and mentally for the season. I'm just ready to play today. You can't watch anymore more film — we're ready to go.”

It was the rival Divas that beat the Passion in the second round of last season's playoffs after splitting two meetings during a 7-1 regular season.

“I watched all the film we can watch and drawn up fronts and looks we can bring against them,” said Muzzy Colosimo, who has taken on a prominent role on the coaching staff since joining the team this season. “We have a pretty extensive game plan. This team we have can spread it out and throw the ball or line up and run the ball right at you.

“It's been an awesome thing to be involved with.”

The Passion have been a consistently winning team and boast the 2007 national championship among their 10 prior seasons in Pittsburgh, the area's longest-tenured women's professional football team. The Pittsburgh Force, who also are part of the WFA, are taking the season off.

The Passion have a new home this season at 3,500-seat Highmark Stadium. Although the professional men's soccer Riverhounds are the primary tenant, the Passion figure to benefit from having such a new, highly visible pro stadium at which to host games.

“Absolutely, that venue with the views and the look out at the city skyline is great,” said Horton, who also serves as the Passion's director of business operations. “To just know you're not calling a high school stadium home and we have this stadium, that's awesome and huge for Pittsburgh — and other teams coming in to play here, that brings another element, too, knowing they're coming to a pro stadium.”

The $15 seats for the opener are sold out, but co-owner Teresa Conn said Thursday that standing-room tickets are available. The team also is selling $50 season passes for a four-game home schedule that runs through June 8.

Conn shares ownership of the franchise with Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris.

“Moving into Highmark Stadium opens up some fun opportunities for our fans,” Conn said. “There's a lot of plusses to it. It's such a beautiful place with a lot to offer.”

Horton is coming off a season in which she passed for 1,329 yards and 19 touchdown during the regular season. Her top receiver, Rachel Wojdowski, caught a team-record 10 touchdown passes.

Amanda Haeg had 393 rushing yards and 594 receiving yards last season in addition to filling in at quarterback. Running back Ciara Chic is another offensive standout, and veteran Olivia Griswold is arguably the Passion's top defensive player after leading the team in tackles last season.

“Our expectations are to bring another national championship home to Pittsburgh,” Horton said. “Our mindset has been that from day one.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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