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(Boston, MA – Tuesday, March 8)

With opening night a little more than a month away, the New England Liberty finalized their twenty player roster that will march into Middle-America and take on the Omaha Heart. This will be the franchise’s first ever game.

Under the watchful eye of LFL Commissioner Mitchell Mortaza, whom is wrapping up a grueling cross country evaluation tour, the Liberty recently showcased their talents on both sides of the ball. The team thus far is growing in confidence and chemistry, which are two key ingredients in the recipe of success.

One minor concern is the majority of team having minimal football experience while making transitions from other sports. Coaching is going to be a major component in determining how much the Liberty can excel as an expansion franchise. However, they are in great hands with a coaching staff that has championship level credentials, decades of football exposure between them, and set the bar high each and every practice.

These twenty athletes have earned the right to take the field in Omaha on April 15th, and are going to turn some heads while doing so. Let’s take a look at the official twenty player New England Liberty Roster.

Alex Drake (QB) – It takes a certain type of person to play quarterback at any level. You don’t only need to be a leader on and off the field, but constantly leading by example. Alex has shown probably the biggest improvement football and non-football wise since tryouts. She has worked tirelessly to fine tune her craft, while building relationships with her receivers, teammates, and coaches. The Nashua, NH native has a solid arm, a set of wheels, and great command at the line. Drake is still very raw, where pocket presence and decision making are going to be tested specifically when the play breaks down.
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Astrid Cruz (RB) – The state of NJ has already produced a pretty solid NFL player named Cruz. The second hails from a half hour outside of Atlantic City. Astrid is a physical specimen whom resembles Chris Johnson out of the backfield. She doesn’t shy away from contact and has breakaway speed that could make it impossible for defenders to catch her from behind. She is undersized compared to other LFL players, which she will have to make up for it with her grit, attitude, and toughness.

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Glenda Cancel (DB/WR) – A local player from Lowell, MA, Glenda is making the cross sport transition from the basketball court, and has shown unique athletic ability from day one. As Cancel becomes more familiar with the intricacies of the position, she will become more confident and potentially be that number one corner each team needs. Her physical demeanor will play a big role in her success.
Jolie Efizokhae (WR/DB) – Jolie is another basketball transplant that is trying her hand in a new sport. Her height is going to be a match-up nightmare for any defender. Jolie’s long arms on defense are going to make it tough for any receiver to get off the line with her.

Rachel Murphy (DL/WR) – Rachel, whom happens to be roommates with Kenia, was probably the most “raw” when it came to football acumen. Her growth and awareness has been impressive in just two months. Nobody is harder on Rachel than she is, and it shows with the exponential improvement on both sides of the ball. She’ll no doubt need to adjust to game speed when things start for real.

Jenny Mac (OL/DL) – A transplant from the Atlanta Steam, Jenny has been a solid veteran presence on the team thus far. Coming off an injury during the LFL All Legends Game this summer, it hasn’t been the start of the season Jenny has hoped for. She struggled to get on the field early, and fell behind a bit preparation wise. Now that she has a clean bill of health, she has jumped right in and hopes to build off her prior experience and will no doubt add value to the Liberty.

Danielle Green (RB/DL) – Danielle is another NY resident whom has shown nothing but dedication since day one. She shined in the initial tryouts and hasn’t disappointed since. Green is going to be a nightmare to tackle when she gets a full head of steam. Her biggest challenge is going to be staying healthy, and taking care of any nagging injuries that just won’t quit.

Tessa Alexandria (LB) –A resident of Albany, NY, Tessa is one of the few Liberty players whom has prior football experience, and it shows. She has shown nothing but pure dedication since the minute she stepped on the tryout field, and refuses to take her foot off the gas. Playing middle linebacker essentially makes you the quarterback of the defense, and the leader on that side of the ball. This will be a role Alexandria will need to welcome and own going forward.
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Kristen Beckman (WR) – Another Bostonian whom is making a name for herself, Beckman quietly has become one of Drake’s favorite targets. Kristen is going to need to remain consistent in both her route running and catching the football to be successful in this league. She has been extremely dedicated to improving by working with Drake after hours, which is imperative to any successful QB/WR tandem.

Yanitza Kulian (RB) – Barely breaking five feet on the measuring tape, the Lowell, MA resident will be that change of pace back that every team needs. Her speed and shiftiness are deceptive and will make defenders pay for poor tackling. However, she needs to improve on her fundamentals of catching the football going forward.

Crystal Gargani (OL) – A Baltimore, MD and former Charm veteran, Crystal brings a much needed experience to a young Liberty offensive line. The quarterback/center relationship is arguably the most important on the team. Gargani has stepped in and played well thus far. She will need to remain consistent snapping the ball accurately, and help coach these other players along when the games start counting.

Lulu Jackson (OL/DL) – Jackson is another LFL veteran, whom brings a physical presence to both sides of the line of scrimmage. Every team needs an enforcer, and Lulu could fill that role. She potentially be a monster coming off the edge, and should get in opposing quarterback’s heads from the opening snap.

Misty Gonzales (OL) – Growing up in Apple Valley, CA, the cold weather in New England hasn’t deterred Gonzales from dedicating herself to the Liberty. She adds depth to a thin offensive line, but will need to get much stronger to deal with bigger and more physical defenders. Not many have worked harder than Gonzales to get where she is right now.

Kaitlyn McAlister (OL) – The youngest member of the Liberty, the Sterling, MA native also adds some depth to the offensive line. Like Gonzales, she will need to put on some muscle to deal with some of these larger defensive linemen. McAlister has worked hard and technically has shown improvement since the onset of practices. Once she gets some experience under her belt, she will only get better.

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Kenia McKeon (DB/WR) – The Peabody, MA resident has come on strong the last few weeks which helped kick her into the defensive backfield rotation. Kenia has shown speed and great ball skills in just a short period of time. McKeon has also acted as a sponge while taking in all advice and feedback from coaches when mistakes are made.

Heidi Simmons (WR/DB) – A former track star, Simmons is another athlete making the jump from another sport. Heidi provides depth at WR, and potentially fits into that slot role as it becomes available. She is a gym rat and constantly trying to improve her speed and foot work, which is going to bode well for her future successes. She will need to improve on route running and her hands to be a difference maker.

Jessica Johnson (WR) – Johnson adds a much needed veteran presence in the defensive backfield and at the WR position. Having played in the LFL before, Johnson can help show the other skill position players the ropes as time goes on. So far, she has shown great speed and an even better set of hands. Her ball skills in the defensive backfield may be the best on the team as well.

Jacqui Robinson (DB) – Robinson is another Liberty player whom has done everything you’d want as a coach and more. She tried her hand at quarterback early on, but moved over to defensive back to maximize her chances of taking the field. Jacqui is a selfless individual whom is constantly trying to improve and get better. She is still very green when it comes to the position, and will need to embrace all of the coaching that goes along with learning it.

Samantha Puckett (OL) – Being a bubble player from the initial tryouts, Samantha had a long road ahead of her to make the Liberty roster. She dedicated herself to getting into football shape and working her tail off in practice, and is getting better each week. Sam has also shown she has the ability to learn, but has a lot of growing as a football player to do in order to be a force on the offensive line.

Tori Barden (WR) – Tori showcased great hands in just a short amount of time and could be a red zone type target due to her size. Tori is another New Jersey native whom loves to learn, and puts the time in outside of practices to improve. Her route running and discipline will need to remain consistent to be an impact player.

Coaching Staff – Behind every great team is a great coaching staff. The dedication the Liberty coaching staff has shown since the team’s inception has been extraordinary. Coach Beasley has helped develop Alex Drake into a solid young quarterback, while making sure his other coaches are developing the players in their areas of expertise. Donnie Williams works primarily with the running backs and is a pool of knowledge for his players to tap into. Coach Harding focuses on the wide receivers and defensive backs and has an acute attention to detail. He demands each route is run properly before and after the catch. Kris Reimer’s responsibility is the offensive line and running the defense. Coach Reimer is a technician and constantly giving feedback like a teacher to a student. That goes for all of the coaches, whether it is good, bad, or indifferent they are ALWAYS coaching. They demand a high level of intensity, focus, and hold each player accountable for “doing their job”. That mantra should sound familiar to New England football fans. Let’s just hope that transcends into just a fraction of the level of success it brought the team that plays down at One Patriot Place.

Photo Credit: Andreanna Seymore (Cover Photo)