The Storm takes RenoThursday, July 21, 2011 By Bridget Rice
While driving on McCarran Blvd. the sun set over southeast Reno. Mira Loma Park emerged on the left. Teenagers crowded the skateboard park. Little Leaguers held batting practice on a baseball diamond. Soccer players scrimmaged cross ways on a large field adjacent to what looked to be an eight-man high school football team ran plays on the far sideline. A female voice called out, “Hut hut, Hike!” just before a snap. Pony tails. Tinkerbell tattoos. Makeup. This football team is made up entirely of women. In its inaugural season, the Nevada Storm, an independent women’s tackle football team, has overcome its share of challenges and jinxes. The Storm began the season in the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL) as the Reno Rattlers. Yet, by the second game, the team was facing managerial conflicts. As a result, the Rattlers reorganized, renaming themselves the Nevada Storm. Problems existed both internally and externally. Who would watch women’s football? “It is awesome to surprise people,” Megan Moore, the Storm’s most recent recruit, said. “Not only can we play the game, but we are actually good at it.” (click here for Brian Eriksen's commentary on Storm football) What they lack in size and strength, these women make up for in focus, footwork and endurance. Even their coaches, Nate Isensee, offense coordinator, and Pete Coyne, defense coordinator, were skeptical until they saw these women compete. “I saw a news story on the team, decided to come out to a practice, and I have been here ever since,” Coyne said. Three days after Thursday’s practice, the Storm traveled for the fourth time this season to South Salt Lake, Utah to compete against the Jynx on July 16. The game represented a series of firsts: first with special teams, first on a full-length field, and a first attempt at playing 8-on-8, the previous four games had been played with six-man teams. The Storm journeyed east with only 11 players -- a stark contrast from the Jynx’s established 40-person roster. In an eight-man game, that left the majority of the team playing both offense and defense. And yet the Storm faced more than a low work-to-rest ratio. Jen Ward, the only player with organized experience, was out for medical reasons. During the first half, Liann Webster suffered heat stroke while Jenny Barton pulled a quad muscle, yielding the Storm with exactly enough players to compete. Down only one touchdown, the Storm's Valerie Tims took a hard hit leaving her laid up on the field. Tims needed to be removed from the field by stretcher and taken to the hospital for a suspected fractured pelvis. The team later learned that Tims only suffered deep bruising. The coaching staff and manager of the Jynx agreed to finish the remaining time on the clock playing six-man to accommodate the Storm’s depleted roster. The final score was 33-12 in Utah’s favor. The Nevada Storm concluded their season with an overall record of 3-2. Despite all the challenges and the final outcome, Hilary Peterson, team manager, was exhilarated by the Storm’s final contest of the season. “It ended up being really fun,” Peterson said. “Jynx is excited to play us next season. They are even going to donate some of their equipment to help build the program.” Other efforts to develop the program have been made through a handful of fundraisers, including online cookie dough and Tupperware sales. The Storm’s fan base and recruiting has been networked primarily through Facebook. The Storm has aspirations to grow to a roster size large enough to compete in an 11-man division. “We want to build a sustainable program,” Peterson said. “It’s about learning how to be a coach, learning how to be a manager, and learning how to build a program so we can help build the team for the future.” (click here to watch Storm practice footage and interview excerpts) The first step has already been taken. The 13-person roster signed a contract with the Women’s Spring Football League (WSFL) for the 2012-2013 seasons. The WSFL is comprised of five teams– Nevada Storm, Cape Fear Thunder, Kansas Phoenix, Ventura Black Widows and West Virginia Wildfire. They will play an eight-man system under modified NCAA rules. Undoubtedly, the Storm will face a new set of obstacles next season, but the players will stay determined. When asked where they would like to be in five years, “Hopefully we have a few national championships to our name,” Peterson said.