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It may be cold outside, but the Madison Blaze women’s football team is gearing up for their 2018 season – indoors, of course.

The team has been practicing on Thursdays and Saturdays at UW Health American Center’s indoor turf field in preparation for their sixth season opener on April 7, at 5 p.m. against the Minnesota Vixen at Otto Breitenbach Stadium in Middleton. The regular season runs through June 9.

The Madison Blaze is a full-contact, full-pads women’s tackle football team and is part of the Women’s Football Alliance, a professional league with over 60 women’s teams across the United States.

Madison Blaze run muscle memory drills on February 17 at the UW-Health at American Center indoor practice field. (Diane Schwartz photo)

Sarrut Ouk, 32, is returning for her second season.

“I’m excited for a lot of things this year. Our team has quite a few new faces, some new to football and others new to the Madison Blaze, so I’m excited about working with new players,” she said.

“Our coaching staff has already started us off with some new drills and training exercises, prepping us in a slightly different style than last season,” Ouk added. “In addition to physical practices twice a week, we also have our Skype ‘classroom’ training where we review the playbooks and go over any questions. There’s always something new to learn along with physical exercises, always challenging the mind and the body.”

Sheena Hirschfield echoes the excitement about new players. Hirschfield is the first board president of the newly restructured organization. She’s been involved with the team since its inception in 2013. Throughout the years her roles have consisted of player, coach, and director of marketing.

“We have a lot of experienced players coming to the team this year,” said Hirschfield. “A good portion of our rookies have game experience. We have players from Milwaukee, Minnesota and Illinois who play with us. They are quite dedicated.

“This year’s team is 25 women strong with half returning from last year,” she continued. “The goal is closer to 40 though. The more players we have, the more players we can keep fresh on the field.”

New players are always welcome, Hirschfield added, and they are still busy recruiting players. “No experience is necessary,” she said. “We start the season with the basics. These are the drills that we’ll do from now until game day are to build muscle memory. We want the muscle memory to fire on game day without the mental aspect – without thinking.”

Madison Blaze train with resistance bands before practice with a UW-Health trainer on February 17 at the UW-Health at American Center indoor practice field. (Diane Schwartz photo)

“We’re also excited that we once again have an opponent in Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Dragons,” Hirschfield continued. “It’s nice to have an in-state rivalry and a really close away game,” she said. “Our players are all volunteers so it’s nice to have an away game where we don’t have an overnight stay.”

Hirschfield explained that the team goal is to make the playoffs in June and July and play for the championship. Off the field, the goal is to continue to secure the long-term future of the organization.

“This is our first season as a board-run organization so we are actively seeking new sponsors to help us become more financially secure. A lot of people have never heard of us. It’s a huge opportunity,” she said.

“We also want people to come out to support us at games and attend our fundraisers,” she added. “We only have four home games and the first three are at home, so this is a great time to come out. All games are held at Middleton High School.”

Alanna Torres (left) and Sarrut Ouk run a defensive drill on February 17 while head coach Tsusa Matsui looks on. (Diane Schwartz photo)

Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 seniors (60+), and $5 students (13-18). Children 12 and under are free. Season tickets are $30 for four home games. The team also offers special packages that include Blaze gear and game day recognition.

For fundraisers, the team will host an “after WERQ dance fitness concert” fundraiser on Sunday, Feb. 25 at High Noon Saloon from noon to 2 p.m. WERQ is the wildly addictive cardio dance workout based on the hottest pop and hip-hop music. Tickets are $10-$15. Other fundraisers include a party at Plan B on March 17 from 6-10 p.m. that includes a Drag King show and a bowling event at 10 Pin Alley in Fitchburg on March 24.

For a complete schedule and tickets, go to www.madisonblazefootball.com.

Written by Diane Schwartz

Diane Schwartz

Diane Schwartz is a writer, educator, activist and the founder of Outdoors 123, an organization dedicated to creating community through the outdoors.

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