Passion remains positive after loss
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Pittsburgh Passion owner Teresa Conn stresses the big picture.
Yes, the Passion lost last week to the D.C. Divas in the playoffs. Sure, it would have been nice to play in their home city for the championship. But even when two other Women's Football Alliance teams clash Aug. 4 at Heinz Field for the championship, Conn will keep the positives from the Passion's season in mind.
"I was incredibly impressed with the adversity our team faced this season," she said. The team was without quarterback Lisa Horton and running back Lyndsi Hughes for a sizable chunk of the season. One of their top receivers, Amanda Haeg, had to shift to quarterback to replace Horton.
"So, in a way, we lost three starters on offense," wide receiver Rachel Wojdowski said.
"It felt like everybody stepped into new roles," Conn said. "We fought it out and slugged it out until the end."
Despite the end of the Passion's season, women's football is still trucking ahead, driving toward the championship game.
For Conn, once again, it is a "big picture" moment.
"We've always asked this of our girls: Put the big picture in mind," she said. "This is bigger than ourselves; it's a big moment for women's football."
The game at Heinz Field will be the first of its kind -- the first women's championship game to be held at a professional field.
"Of course we wanted to be one of the first teams to play in an NFL stadium," Wojdowski said. "Having the championship game here in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers play, it only seemed fitting to us that we run out through the tunnel representing the Passion and the city of Pittsburgh. Despite that not happening, this is still a great thing for women's football.
"When I first started playing a year ago, players on the team would tell me what they had to deal with to keep things going. There was no indoor facility to practice in the middle of winter. There was no turf field to practice on, and car lights were used sometimes to keep the field lighted because the team had to practice outside at some field where there were no stadium lights. I am sure most of the football teams have similar stories as well. Coming from that, seeing where we are today with the sport and playing at Heinz Field is pretty amazing."
Conn said, "The reason it's in Pittsburgh and at Heinz Field is because of the hard work these women put in to it."
Although the Passion will not be in the championship game, the team will be heavily involved in the weekend festivities.
Several Passion players will get to play in the WFA All-Star Game at 10 a.m. Aug. 4. Five Passion players -- Horton, Wojdowski, quarterback/wide receiver Haeg, defensive back Krystal Cozzo and kicker Amy Fallon -- were named to the first team.
Two other Passion players, defensive stalwarts and sisters Olivia and Octavia Griswold, were named to the second team.
Cozzo, who said she was happy to be named to the all-star team, echoed the message of her team's owner.
"[Playing for the title] would have been an amazing experience," she said. "Although I would have loved to play there, it still is going to be amazing to watch women play in a professional stadium."
And the Passion players will put in as much effort to make the weekend a success as they do on the football field.
"The Passion will be behind the scenes doing everything we need to do to make the [weekend] go smoothly," Cozzo said.
Among the events that weekend will be a meet-and-greet with the players, the "Immaculate Tailgate Challenge," a fanfest and a special presentation of the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement on the Heinz Field Jumbotron.
"We're thrilled about doing a nice job for it," Conn said. "Let's not take away from the fact that everyone wants to [play] there, but when you're not, you find a way to take joy and pride from what you've accomplished."
First Published July 7, 2012 12:00 am