Women’s flag football team building a winning program with two national title appearances in the past four years
BY BILLY LIGGETT
In the world of women’s collegiate flag football, Florida A&M – winners of eight national tournaments in the past five years — is the undisputed queen.
But Campbell University isn’t far behind.
Campbell’s club team, the Cyclones, has fallen to the mighty A&M squad in the national finals twice in the last four years — 21-19 in 2008 and 35-0 last December — but the squad, first formed in Buies Creek in 1995, has reason for optimism entering next fall.
“The most we had try out for the team before was 17,” said Jeff Paszkiewicz, coordinator of intramural sports at Campbell and the Cyclones’ head coach. “Last year, we had 37. With 37 girls, it’s much nicer when you’re filling out a 13-person team. Much nicer.”
The Campbell squad advanced to the Pensacola, Fla., national tournament after winning a regional tournament in Wilmington, playing and beating much larger schools along the way. The team is made up of former soccer and softball players and other athletes who also excelled in high school sports.
The 2011 team was led by senior quarterback Maghan Fain of Critz, Va. Fain was a two-sport star in high school, but her refusal to have shoulder surgery before college kept her from pursuing softball at the next level.
During her freshman orientation at Campbell in 2009, she was approached by a player from the 2008 team that made it to Nationals in New Orleans, and the rest was history.
“I’m a huge football fan … Tom Brady and I, we’re like this,” Fain joked, holding two fingers up close together. “I joined the team my freshman year as the quarterback, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Fain will graduate early this spring, but hopes to return to Campbell as a grad student in the School of Education. If all goes as planned, she’ll return in the fall as a four-year starter for a team expected to return 10 of its 13 players from 2011 … all 10 with more than a year of football knowledge under their flag-wielding belts.
That’s good news for Paszkiewicz, a grad student who inherited the team from Andy Shell, current head of Campus Recreation at Campbell. Paszkiewicz said he thinks Campbell can continue to build its women’s flag football program to the level of Florida A&M, which he compares to the dominant UCLA men’s basketball teams of the 1960s and 70s.
“That’s a very attainable goal,” he said. “It’s harder to say that after losing 35-0 to them just a few months ago, but that game shouldn’t have been 35-0. I’m not saying we should have won … but it should have been closer. I think with the team we have coming back next year … many of whom hadn’t played flag football before last year … we’re going to be much better. The more you play, the more knowledge you pick up.”
Fain and her teammates will spend the summer raising money for next fall’s season. The team relies on fundraisers and donations from local businesses to fund their trips, their uniforms, equipment and entry fees in the tournaments.