GARDNER: ‘FROM THE TRENCHES’ | ORLANDO AT TAMPA BEHIND-THE-SCENES
By: Lauren Gardner (SPECIAL to LFL360.com)
Last week, I wrote the inaugural, ‘From the Trenches’, on the War On I-4, the big matchup between Tampa and Orlando. With the postseason on the line for both teams, tensions were high and the game lived up to the hype.Since I get unprecedented behind-the-scenes access, I thought I would share some of the sights and sounds of game day with all of you.
Arrive in Tampa from Denver. Weather is nice and I am thinking I should extend my stay in good ole’ FLA. I grab my bag and head to the hotel to freshen up.
Get to the arena in time to chat with Tampa coach, Yo Murphy and Orlando coach, Doug Miller. Meanwhile, Kansas City Chiefs, Hall of Fame kicker, Nick Lowery, is on the field, giving pointers to both teams’ kickers. Both teams have major position changes. For Tampa, Liz Gorman is at RB, something new for her but Coach Murphy is excited to put this explosive safety in the position to do some offensive damage. For Orlando, McCoy and Dixon are sharing the QB role. Miller feels both All Fantasy players offer different strengths and that the combination is what’s best suited for his 2-0 squad.
I work my way around the hallways and talk with some of the players who are getting taped up and working with their team trainers. I see Saige Steinmetz, who is out from an ACL and MCL tear. Her and Adrian Purnell tell me about how Purnell will take Steinmetz’s spot. Purnell has a #11 on her face in honor of her injured teammate. They tell me how calm and confident the team is going into the game. They know that this game is a must win in order to make it to the playoffs and they don’t seem phased by Orlando’s 2-0 record or the fact that they are the league’s #1 ranked defense.
Jeanette McCoy and Lauran Ziegler tell me how good they’re feeling about the game. Especially after coming off of a big 68-8 home win over Cleveland the month before. McCoy is hesitant to reveal the team’s new QB strategy to me but gives me a quick nod and a smile, telling me, she’ll be taking the game’s first snaps.
Both teams gather outside of their locker room for official warmups. Tampa huddles up for a quick prayer then out to the field.
Orlando takes the field and begins to warm up.
Breeze QB, KK Matheny warms up her arm. The doors have opened and some of the early crowd trickles in. It’s always great hearing the first timers. They are so impressed with the skill and athleticism of the players.
Orlando wideout, Taylor Thompson snags a long ball from Dixon.
Time to shoot my pregame standup. I talk about Orlando’s outstanding defense and mention the dynamic play of Ziegler and McCoy.
A few minutes before player intros begin, Lowery and I discuss the how impressed he is with the league and the level of play. We both agree that these ladies are great role models in their communities. I give him some insight on both teams and a brief rundown of the rules.
Player intros begin and the crowd is already getting into it.
The game is hard fought with some big hits and incredible plays, with the hometown Breeze making their second straight postseason trip in an exciting 20-18 win over their hated rivals.
Everything is packed up and ready to be shipped off to Seattle for their first ever contest against the expansion Minnesota Valkyrie.
Until next time, I’ll see you From the Trenches on MTV2.
For more pics and behind the scenes access, follow me on twitter, @LGRED