Spires women’s flag football headed to NAIA playoffs in inaugural season

USM Athletics
Shown is Jerrica Johnson competing during the University of Saint Mary women's flag football inaugural season.

Already making strides in its first year of play, the University of Saint Mary flag football team will have the opportunity this week to compete at the NAIA women's flag football finals Thursday through Saturday in Atlanta. 

Pool play will begin Thursday and take place at Silverbacks Park, while the final two days of competition will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

Head coach Angellica Grayson said the season has had its challenges.

“Nothing’s easy when you get started so having a foundation can be very challenging at the beginning,” Grayson said in an interview with USM Athletics. “Sometimes you can doubt yourself when starting something new.”

She said the team has begun to build a culture based on many aspects including perseverance. 

“The thing about having perseverance is being able to keep pushing forward,” she said, “and that’s exactly what we’ve done, with not just me as a coach, but as a team, building a culture of love, a culture of family and a culture of sisters.”

The Spires' roster boasts nine athletes in Anayah Hooks, Jerrica Johnson, Shannon Cooley, Karleigh Enyart, Daire Stelljes, Shian Galbreath, Lillian Kasten, Karyn Larkin and Maea Ploetz. Just one member of the team has previous experience playing flag football. 

“Just starting from the beginning all the way until now, we have come such a long way,” Grayson said. “Seeing how they’ve gone from non-football players to football players is awesome and I’m happy to be a part of that.”

Teams competing in the finals include Saint Mary, Cottey College (Mo.), Kansas Wesleyan, Keiser University (Fla.), Midland University (Neb.), Milligan University (Tenn.), Ottawa University (Kan.), St. Thomas University (Fla.), Webber University (Fla.) and Xavier University (La.).

The entire bracket includes a total of 20 games. The Spires are set to begin play Thursday when they take on Webber International at 11 a.m. They will then play Milligan at 3:15 p.m.