The Ottawa University Braves women's flag football team beat the Keiser University (Fla.) Seahawks, 7-6, to win the inaugural NAIA Women's Flag (WFLAG) Football Championship Tournament at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on May 8. The win came a year after OU signed on as one of the first 15 NAIA insitutions nationwide to offer the emerging sport. The Braves finished their historic first season with a 14-1 overall record, a perfect 6-0 conference mark as KCAC champions and the NAIA national title.
Ottawa’s one-point victory over Keiser in the championship game came after the same Seahawks team had handed the Braves their only loss of the season in week 3 on March 17. OU lost that game in the final minute by one point, 26-25.
"I knew that early loss would be the best thing that could happen to us, and I knew that we would see them again very likely in the championship," Head Coach Liz Sowers said. "That's what football is – flag football or tackle football – it's a game of momentum, a game of inches, and, literally, a game of points, like the one point that decided both our games with Keiser this season."
The national championship capped off a magical, storybook season written by a group of young women from seven U.S. states and Canada, who love the game of football and were hungry for an opportunity to play it on the collegiate level. At Ottawa, they found a home and became a family.
"From day one when they were strangers to now becoming sisters and lifting a trophy, it's like you've gone through so much together and for them I wanted nothing more than for us to walk out as the first-ever NAIA national champions," Coach Sowers said.
The torch they carry as champions, and pioneers, of this emerging sport is not taken lightly. To a person, the Braves coaches and players are both vigilant and passionate about the significance of the path they are trailblazing, and the impact it will have on the future of the sport and the young girls and women who will play it.
“I’ve been saying from the beginning that women’s flag football is going to be huge, and I hope everyone knows it,” Coach Sowers said. “It is coming up fast, and I think what we’ve started with the NAIA, NFL Flag and others is going to have everybody jumping on board.”
Braves freshman defensive back Abby Brown is keenly aware of the message she and her teammates and coaches are sending every time they step on the field.
“It’s been really important for me to see strong women in the sport of football, and I think that’s really important for other younger girls to see as well,” Brown said.
On the season, the Braves outscored their opponents 586-107 or by an average score of 39-7. The team finished undefeated at 6-0 in the KCAC to win the conference championship. They swept the KCAC postseason awards with Head Coach Liz Sowers winning Coach of the Year honors. Freshman quarterback Madysen Carrera was named overall Player of the Year, Alyssa Linkous earned Offensive Player of the Year honors, and Brown was selected Defensive Player of the Year.
OU had 15 players named to the All-KCAC teams, including 10 first-team, two second-team and three honorable-mention selections.
Check out the video at the link below that highlights the Braves road to the national championship.