By Aunnica O’Brien On the heels of a less than consistent 2014-2015 season, the Mudhens gathered in early August to establish some goals for the 2015-2016 season. After many a potluck dinner and mixer gatherings, we decided one thing was for certain: we wanted to make the Mudhens a successful and competitive Division II team. So we started practices early, a month before our first game.
At least 40 women showed up to that first practice; more people than I had ever seen at a Mudhens practice in my two and half years playing on this team. It was certain, we were on a new path and the momentum behind that collective mindset was powerful.
Practices continued to yield at least 25 women each night. This allowed us to work on our game-like scenarios at almost every practice; finishing each night with a proper “rammy” as our coach John calls it.
Our first game was against the Budd Bay Bandits, the team from the Pacific Northwest that made it to Nationals last season. We knew this game was significant. We wanted to start off on the right foot and set a precedent for the new season. Our last two matches against Budd Bay ended in losses, one significant.
A precedent we set indeed, we won 54-10. Tries scored from forwards, from backs, from rookies, from vets. This game also demonstrated the depth we are building. Bringing in our substitutes at the 50th minute transcended our level of play. Inserting power and pace from rookies like Ariana Bray, Maisha Davis and Madeline Barnes.
This win equipped us with the confidence that we needed. We headed into our second game ready to continue playing with integrity and incorporating all 23 players. Another tough opponent next, the Portland Pigs, we continued working hard at practice.
We won. A total shut out and another reason for us to feel proud of the work we were doing at practices and in games. This positive trend upward continued against the Eugene Reign, and the Bend Roughriders. Each time we took the field, we’d beat our opponents and not just by a small margin but significantly enough to average 54 points a game. We ended the fall season with 216 points scored over four games. Our opponents, collectively, only scoring twenty points against us.
Working alongside my fellow captain, Brittany Stepnioski and our coach, John, a comforting feeling washed over us. No matter what combination players we decided to roster, each and every option was powerful in a way that was difficult to stop.
The Mudhens have had some significant changes over the last three years. In my time on the team, we have gone from winning a championship to nearly ceasing to exist. Last year was an obstacle. Lots of uncertainties hung in our reality. We needed some time to repair and move forward as an entirely different entity.
As we head into our spring season, we have some tough competition. The Tacoma Sirens in addition to the Oregon Sports Union sides have historically been difficult games to win. We have the foundation and resources necessary to continue beating teams. Our spring goal: to represent the Pacific Northwest in the National Championship. And I have no doubt that we can. Tapping into the confidence, depth and power that carried us through the fall season, this team will continue to soar. Here’s to growth!