Plum grad passionate about role on playoff-bound Pittsburgh women’s football team
Seven years ago, Lauren Ferragonio was a rookie with the Pittsburgh Passion, and as she began her journey in women’s tackle football, she leaned on the numerous veterans who had shaped the franchise’s fortunes for a decade.
Now, the Plum graduate is the experienced veteran — a starter for several years along the offensive line — and she welcomes the chance to mentor the plethora of young talent which dots the roster.
“The amount of rookies far outnumber the veterans, so I knew I had to be there to answer any questions they had,” Ferragonio said. “Since I have run this offense for seven years, I have assisted in putting the blocking together and helped the coaches as much as possible. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and we don’t want to have any weak links. We want everyone on this team to be as strong and productive as possible.”
The Passion, with Ferragonio in the trenches, have been productive again this season. The team finished the regular season 6-2 with a 47-0 victory over the Toledo Reign last Saturday. The Passion’s two losses came to the rival DC Divas. The home game between the teams May 18 ended 26-21, with a Divas touchdown on the final play of the game.
“We haven’t even peaked yet, and every week, the team gets stronger, and the chemistry between the younger and more experienced players grows,” Ferragonio said.
The Women’s Football Alliance playoffs begin Saturday, and the Passion host the New York Wolves at 7 p.m. at West Allegheny’s Joe P. DeMichela Stadium. This is the teams’ first meeting this season.
“We feel pretty confident about this game,” Ferragonio said. “Several players from the former New York Sharks team are now playing for the Wolves. New York always has a good group of women. It should be a good game, but we’re ready to pull off the win and advance to the next round.”
Ferragonio, who balances her dedication to the Passion with her job as a corrections officer at Allegheny County Jail, said it was a little strange stepping into the huddle this season and not seeing Lisa Horton guiding the offense.
Horton retired at the end of last season after 15 years as the Passion quarterback. She won three championships with the team, garnered the same amount of MVP honors and racked up more than 18,000 passing yards and 250 touchdowns.
But Horton remains with the team as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.
“Lisa is a great leader and role model, and her knowledge of the sport is next to none,” Ferragonio said. “When she played, she had an answer to anything thrown at us, and it’s that same away as a coach. She always has a quick response. She’s really transitioned well into being an offensive coordinator.”
Horton said she has gained a new perspective of the game as a coach, but her confidence and trust in players such as Ferragonio has not wavered.
“Lauren’s experience over the years brings a breadth of knowledge to the game, especially when we play teams such as DC with the more tenured and veteran athletes,” Horton said. “Her leadership and knowledge from playing for the Passion for so long, and also for Team USA, can’t be understated.”
While the excitement of Ferragonio and the other Passion players is high for Saturday’s playoff game, thoughts, she said, often turn to the memory of her father, Fran, who died May 28 at age 64.
“My teammates have been awesome with what I and my family have been going through,” Ferragonio said. “My dad was just as much a part of this team as I am. Since the start, everyone embraced him, and he became like a father figure to some of the girls and a friend to everyone. He loved this team. Overall, it’s been a really humbling experience to see all the lives my dad has touched.”
Ferragonio said several former and current Passion players made a donation to a Plum School District scholarship her father started when he became a tax collector.
Each year, the $250 scholarship is presented to a graduating senior who has been accepted to a community college. It now is the Fran Ferragonio Memorial Scholarship.
The donation from the Passion, Ferragonio said, helps fund the scholarship for at least the next eight years.
“My father was proud of the scholarship fund because he always loved helping students further their education,” she said. “When they presented that to my family, it was a very powerful and humbling gesture and way to memorialize my father.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-856-7400 x8632, [email protected] or via Twitter .