It’s not your typical practice space at all, as Coach Tony Chaves addressing his team after the rain pushed his final practice into a classroom at Polytechnic University on Tuesday.
“We were hoping to be able to walk through our plays and get organized and know our position better and stuff but the Florida weather has dictated other plans for tonight,” said Melinda Sparks who plays offensive line for the Anarchy.
But the team still must prepare for its final opponent of the season. As they’ll meet the Arkansas Wildcats in the Division III Women’s Football Alliance National Championship this weekend – something that seemed unattainable a year ago.
“They’ve come so far from 0-8 to where they are now,” Anarchy Head Coach Tony Chavez explained. “It’s all due to the fact that they all had their heads on straight, came out to work, and was determined and resilient.”
This team was incredibly shaken last June by the Pulse Nightclub attack—beloved assistant coach Cory Connell lost his life that night. Running back Paula Blanco was hit in the shoulder by a bullet. She was not able to recover well enough from the gunshot wounds to return to the field.
“It was a galvanizing effect on the team,” Chavez continued. “We didn’t want the team to fall apart we had a really good core that managed to stay together.”
“We just learned to use the tragedy to push us forward,” Anarchy quarterback Chandice Hunter said. “And we want to do something for Cory and Paula and let them know that we love them and we are fighting for them.”
This season is dedicated to these two.
“It’s been difficult, very very difficult and every game,” Sparks added. “Every person who walks on the field remembers that and knows why we are there. It’s been a hard road –we’ve all worked hard but it has been a miracle season.”
It’s a miracle season that is now one game shy of winning a championship.
“We are in a unique situation,” Chavez said. “The town isn’t going to get a championship from anyone else this year so we might as well be the ones.”
“Especially after everything we’ve been through,” Hunter added. “The City was behind us after everything happened at Pulse last year so it would be nice to give something back to them.”
A group that has weathered all the storms is ready for its rainbow finish.