July 12, 2024

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Washington Wolfpack celebrates first female player in AFL history despite team’s week three loss

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Wolfpack new kicker Melissa Strother

EVERETT, Wash. — A new female player for the Washington Wolfpack is breaking the glass ceiling in the Arena Football League.

Kicker Melissa Strother is the first female player in Arena Football League history. She arrived in Everett on May 9 and made her debut with the Wolfpack during the team’s week three home loss against the West Texas Desert Hawks on Sunday.

 “I never really thought about that,” Strother said on making history. “Right now, I’m focused on getting better every day and improving. That kind of thing I’ll look back on it and appreciate it but right now there’s more work to do.” 

The Wolfpack’s afternoon was off to a promising start after Xavier Crawford brought the opening kickoff to the house to give the team an early lead.

The Mother’s Day crowd erupted in cheers as Crawford dodged by defenders to set the tone early.

Xavier Crawford returning the kickoff

Linebacker Baxter Patrick lead the defense on the next possession and recovered a fumble. However, quarterback Jake Ta’Ase threw an interception on the ensuing drive.

The Desert Hawks evened the score after quarterback Jonathan Bane threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Lonnie Outlaw. The Wolfpack defense struggled to contain the 6’7 receiver throughout the night, despite a strong defensive effort from cornerback Austin Joyner.

The Wolfpack had a chance to bring the game to a single score deficit late in the second quarter. The offense was at their opponent’s goal line with only a second left on the clock, but failed to score and were down 20-7 at the half.

Bane’s consistent connection to Outlaw in the second half secured key first downs and kept the clock moving keeping the Wolfpack at bay. 

The Wolfpack’s last real chance of stealing a victory came when Ta’Ase ran nearly the length of the field for a touchdown. The defense then forced and recovered a Desert Hawks fumble.

But the offense couldn’t score again leading to the 34-21 loss and dropping the team to 0-2 on the season.

“Man it’s a tough game and it can go any way,” Wolfpack Head Coach JR Wells said after the game. “It’s a tough team that we played but honestly I’m just grateful we had this day. There’s a lot of craziness going on in the AFL. But we come together and give these men a platform to keep playing. That’s all we can ask for.” 

After the game, Strother stayed after to sign autographs for fans. The fan who caught her first extra point kick stayed around to give the ball back.

“I can’t believe he gave me the game ball.” Strother said as she held the historic ball in her arms. 

The Wolfpack are scheduled to be at home this week against the Louisiana Voodoo and the Desert Hawks will be home against the Orlando Predators.

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