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Shaler's Baden, Vasquez help Pittsburgh Passion in title pursuit

| Friday, June 16, 2017, 3:27 p.m.
Laura Baden, first-year wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Passion women’s football team, talks to teammates at Cupples Stadium, Wednesday, March 23, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Laura Baden, first-year wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Passion women’s football team, talks to teammates at Cupples Stadium, Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

Laura Baden can see the end of the line for her Pittsburgh Passion career. Baden, who works as an athletic trainer at Shaler, still plays football after seven years, three knee surgeries and numerous bumps and bruises.

Her career got extended for at least one more week when the Passion beat the Atlanta Dream, 34-14, during the first round of the Women's Football Alliance playoffs Saturday at Shaler Middle School.

“I love this game, it's hard to put it down once you get a taste of it,” said Baden, who plays wide receiver and is from Almont, Mich. “It's pretty hard to let it go. This is going to be my last year. My body has decided that for me.”

The Passion (7-2) will play the Chicago Force on the road next week for a spot in the semifinals. Pittsburgh is the host of the championship game, set for July 22 at Highmark Stadium.

Baden is one of two players with Titan ties. Linebacker Sharon Vasquez is a 1998 Shaler graduate who played basketball and ran track in high school.

Vasquez happily has accepted a role as elder statesmen on the team after 11 seasons.

“For me, I'm one of the older ones now,” Vasquez said. “I'm helping the younger players learn what it is to be on the Passion team and give them a feel for how things should be. They are doing a wonderful job.”

The Passion won their first five games of the season before dropping close games to the Boston Renegades (33-28) and D.C. Divas (35-34). They have the 10th-best offense in the league, averaging 40 points.

The Passion are seeking their first championship since winning the Independent Women's Football League titles in 2014 and '15. They moved into the tougher WFA the past two seasons and made the playoffs both times.

The Passion never have won a championship in the WFA during two stints with the league.

“We've gone back and forth in different leagues with a lot of these teams,” Vasquez said. “I welcome the competition.”

Baden is excited to have a couple more games before wrapping up her career.

Having some Shaler football players come and cheer her on for the first round of the playoffs was a nice start. She has the skills to work through the pain.

“Obviously, you are looking forward to more wins,” Baden said. “Adding more wins onto the end of the schedule is a good thing. You never really want it to be over with. Not super excited about having to travel to Chicago when we win. Any win is a good win.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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