Big Bowl provided another great weekend of flag football for all in attendance. Last year’s Mixed bracket winners, Mass Flag All-Stars, brought a female contingent named the Boston Patriots that would no doubt bring extra talent to the already impressive field of womens sides.
However last years winners the Austria women’s national side going under the banner of ‘Amazing Austrian Amazones’ were always going to be one of the favourites to take the title for a 2nd time and they did not disappoint. Under new head coaches Josiah Cravalho, OC Holly Kellner and Walter Demel, the Amazones were looking to prepare for the upcoming European Championships while also giving tournament experience to some new players.
The group stages did not start how they anticipated however, as a shock set-back by the experienced Copenhagen Tomahawks led to a 21-19 defeat for the defending champs. This was a wake up call however and the Austrians got themselves together to steam roll through the rest of the group picking up wins against the British squads, East Kilbride Pirates and Sheffield Hallam. They also disposed of the Hague Hyenas in comfortable fashion.
This would set them up for a quarter-final clash against a strong Gijon Foxes team from Spain, which featured some international players. Last year, both sides faced off in a very close affair. However the Saskia Stribrny led Amazones dispatched the Spaniards easily in a 25-7 win to earn them a semi-final place against the young but talented Boston Patriots. Having just disposed of the Tomahawks, the Amazones knew this would be one of their toughest challenges. They prevailed in a thrilling 19-18 triumph. In the end it could have gone either way, but extra points were the deciding factor in the Amazones’ favour.
The day took a strange turn when there was some debate regarding the other semi-final score, and reports suggest the German side T2D2 accepted defeat in somewhat of a controversial incident, allowing the Mexicans back into the final for a 2nd year in a row against the Amazones. This time the score was one sided, even if the game itself was not. Katrin Mansbert and Charlotte Janda intercepted the normally deadly Mexican offence 3 times as the Austrian side helped themselves to 3 unanswered touchdowns. The score in the end was a surprising 19-0, giving the Amazones their 6th Big Bowl victory in 9 attempts.
We caught up with Walter Demel to get his perspective on the Amazones’ performance at the weekend:
First of all, congratulations on winning Big Bowl again! What did you think of this year’s event compared to 2016?
Thank you! We had a great time at the Big Bowl, maybe the best we ever had here! I felt we had very good team chemistry and it was a lot of fun to work with the girls and the new coaching staff.
You had some good teams in your group, including the Copenhagen Tomahawks, who surprisingly won your encounter. How did that affect the team?
Coming in we knew the Copenhagen Tomahawks would give us a tough fight – they always do!
The Tomahawks also beat us in the opening game back in 2013, so we kind of were used to how it feels. Also it was the first game under the new coaching staff with a new offensive system and some new players, so there was no real panic.
How did you find the women’s level in comparison to last year?
It is getting better and deeper every year! The Boston Patriots team added a new dimension similar to when Mexico joined the competition a few years ago. Hopefully we will have an even stronger field in 2018!
Was there any opposition players that caught your eye or gave you problems?
Ida Jakobsen (#85) from the Tomahawks gave us all kinds of fits and she is certainly one of the top European players when healthy. Also the tall lady from the Boston Patriots was a tough match-up for any team! I also want to mention the Blitzer/Receiver from the Den Hague Hyenas who would not stop going all out no matter the score. Last but not least, my personal favourite (non-Austrian) player to watch is Isabel Alegria (#41) from the Foxes 82 who made some unbelievable catches against us in the 2015 European Championships. We had her wrapped up nicely this time, though.
Did you manage to watch many other games in between yours and was there any that you enjoyed?
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see that many games but I always love to see Bobby Black play QB. The men’s finals were great too and both sides were a joy to watch.
We spoke prior to Big Bowl about the team using this as preparation for the European championships. What did you learn about the team over the weekend?
In the playoff round there were stretches where we looked ready to play the European Championships right away and other phases were you could still see a work in progress. We were looking for some answers at specific positions and I believe we were able to find most of them.
Did any of the newer players make a big impact?
Actually there were quite a few! Karoline Kugler, who has only practiced with the team since February, started at Wide Receiver and she is explosive and can snatch the ball out of the air. On the defensive side Christina Egger, who is a terrific athlete as well, joined the team after the tryouts in April. At Big Bowl she shared the blitzing duties with second year player Nicole Kuniewicz and I feel both provided an effective pass rush. As for second year players, Katrin Mansbart moved to the defense this year and, after struggling somewhat in the opening game, bounced back with strong performances in the playoff phase including 2 huge interceptions in the finals. Valerie Sedlacek is also a second year player who did some nice things as an offensive starter. Sandra Dorner is another rookie who filled in nicely at a couple of positions. And finally I want to mention Stephanie Konecny, who last played on defense for us back in 2013. She came back to the team this year and is a sure-handed receiver and, after the injury to Stefanie Hirscher, was also our backup quarterback. Back in 2010 she started every game at Wide Receiver in the World Championships in Canada at age 16 and never dropped a single ball! She also caught a beautiful TD here in the finals against Mexico.
The final score against Mexico is impressive but was it as easy as it suggests?
No, the game was actually not that lopsided from the get go. Our first drive stalled in Mexico’s half, but our defense also came up with a 4-and-out. In our second drive QB Saskia Stribrny threw a beautiful TD pass to Therese Weigang – a connection that later produced another TD in the second half. Since I already talked about the World Championships in 2010 before, in that year the same Quarterback/Receiver combination produced 26 out of 33 points in the bronze medal game against Mexico. In any case, Katrin Mansbart came up with a huge interception on the very next play and although we did not score on that drive the game pretty much went downhill from there for Mexico with 2 more interceptions, another from Katrin and one from defense captain Charlotte Janda. In the end we tried to protect the shutout because it is probably the first time ever that Mexico was held scoreless in an international tournament game.
Will you be looking to Three-peat next year?
We have won 3 out of the last 4 so I think it wouldn’t be bad for the tournament if someone else wins, but I guess that team has to beat us first.
Thanks Walter, and congratulations to all the Amazones on their tremendous performance!