The UCF women’s flag football team “Check On it” left no doubt in Pensacola, FL about which team reigns supreme at the NIRSA Championship Series National Flag Football Tournament hosted by the University of West Florida.
UCF’s team used a fourth quarter comeback on Sunday, Jan. 4 to defeat the ladies from Florida A&M University 7-6 to successfully defend last year’s national championship. UCF Men’s, Women’s and Co-Rec flag football teams have now won 12 national titles since the first tournament in 1979, the most flag football titles of any school in the U.S. and Mexico.
UCF’s suffocating defense was the story of the tournament. Team Check On It started with back-to-back shutouts, combining for 80 points, in preliminary action with wins over Campbell University and Ferris State. In the Tournament round, UCF continued the tough defense with shutouts wins over North Carolina A&T in the quarterfinals and Howard University in the semifinals.
“Defense is our foundation,” said UCF flag football coach Brandon Baroody, a UCF graduate who started coaching since 2010.
UCF outscored opponents 119-6 during the three-day event; giving up its first and only score in the championship game when FAMU took a 6-0 lead late in the first half. UCF Senior, and center/corner, Dannica Mosher, felt like UCF’s defense set the tone for this year’s title, “Giving up only 6 points is quite the accomplishment and I thank our incredible defense for that.”
Baroody said his team took special preparations before playing against FAMU again.
“We prepare for certain plays. We literally planned and prepared for two years for one of their plays,” Baroody said.
The play that they prepared for and counted on, FAMU played and the UCF women took control.
Late in the fourth quarter, tournament MVP Tatianne Dearaujo, found the end zone to tie the game at six. On the next and most critical play of the game, UCF Quarterback, Keimy Milanes completed a pass to Amanda Hall for a successful point after touchdown (PAT) and one point lead. FAMU did get the ball back, but Hall intercepted a pass to stop the Rattlers’ threat with less than two minutes to go.
Dearaujo says the team stayed calm the entire time.
“I don’t remember anyone saying much, besides ‘let’s go and finish’. We all wanted this so badly that I don’t think anything needed to be said,” Dearaujo said.
Milanes said if they hadn’t practiced that play, the outcome could’ve changed.
“If we wouldn’t have practiced that play the day of the game, it could’ve been 7 on 7 or even overtime,” Milanes said.
Check On It was led by Milanes, who suffered a serious knee injury (an ACL injury) on the first day of last year’s tournament, Dearaujo, and Charlene Thome. NIRSA honored all three women as part of the All-Tournament team.
“As an athlete, it’s the most devastating thing [to get hurt during nationals and sit out],” Milanes said.
A month later since her injury, she had to have surgery and had to go through eight months of rehab. So, this year, Milanes felt like she and others who were also hurt got their redemption.
UCF now has 42 All-Americans in the tournament’s history and Dearaujo is the 17th UCF student to be named tournament MVP all-time.
“What’s so special about this team is we’re much more than that, these girls and Brandon (Baroody) are family,” Dearaujo said.
Shane Land, Assistant Director of Intramural Sports at the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center (RWC) credits the team’s hard work ethic for the sustained success, “This is an exceptional group of young ladies. They are coached by NIRSA Championship Series Flag Football Hall of Famer, Brandon Baroody.They practice and play in tournaments year round in preparation for the national tournament and that work ethic is what has led to their success.”
Baroody said when they practice at UCF they will usually play scrimmage with other UCF’s athletes such as those on the girl’s rugby team and the ultimate frisbee team.
Baroody has been a part of nine of UCF’s 12 titles as a player or coach. He says the success of the team is about much more than flag football, “Talent and experience gave us reason to believe we could win, but character and chemistry is what allowed us to have this run of success.”
Milanes said she considers her teammates her family.
“I started playing my sophomore year. I didn’t really know anybody. I think everyone should take a chance on something. The girls I didn’t know before are now my family.”
UCF’s Co-Rec Team also made the final four of the tournament which also features student officials, including three from UCF: Kelsey Jones, Randy Korn and Sammie Fitzell.