Glad handing: Quarterback Alex Black of the Capital Area Lady Gladiators, right, gets set to hand the ball off as head coach Steve Drisdelle looks on. Lady Gladiators open their sixth season Saturday in Halifax..
Lady Gladiators will take another kick at it
Women's Football | | Team figures to be right in the mix for SupHer Bowl VI

Steve Drisdelle expects the Capital Area Curves Lady Gladiators to be "right in the hunt" for the Maritime Women's Football League title.

After winning two years in a row, the rebuilding Gladiators bowed out in the semifinal round last summer to the eventual champion Saint John Storm.

The Storm beat the Moncton Vipers 24-14 in the final while the Gladiators rebounded to beat Halifax Xplosion 22-16 to finish third.

Drisdelle, who had been the Gladiators' defensive coach, was hastily promoted to head coach just before the regular season started.

"It was a year of change," Drisdelle said. "We lost a lot of players for various reasons, including pregnancies and careers. But we've turned it around this year. We're very confident with what's going on.

"We have a lot of enthusiasm."

Capital Area opens the regular season tomorrow by playing the Xplosion in Bedford, N.S.

After that game, the Gladiators will enjoy a three-game homestand. They'll host the Vipers on June 14, the Storm on June 20 and the Xplosion on June 27 - all 5 p.m. kickoffs at Leo Hayes High School front field.

"That homestand will definitely help us out and get us ready for a push towards the playoffs and field position," Drisdelle said.

The Gladiators travel to Moncton and Saint John on July 4 and 11, respectively, to complete the regular season.

The semifinals are scheduled July 18.

The third-place game for the Friendship Bowl and the championship for the Maritime SupHer Bowl VI Judy Upward Trophy will both be played July 25 at Millidgeville field.

The Gladiators began practising indoors in February and have had a dozen outdoor practices since May.

"We're sitting at about 25, 26 players," Drisdelle said. "We're always looking for a few more, but I'm very comfortable with that number."

The Gladiators have 14 experienced players, including linebacker/kicker Tiffany Ketchum, who's in the military and played in the past for Moncton.

"We have a good core of veterans along with a fresh and very talented and athletic group of rookies coming in," Drisdelle said.

Quarterback Alex Black is the team captain "and the best player in the league hands down," Drisdelle said.

Robyn Neill, at centre, "is probably the heart and soul of the offensive line," he said, while linebacker Julia Coleman "is another key veteran."

Tight end/slotback Kristen Warner and defensive end Megan Foley "are impressive rookies," Drisdelle said.

The Gladiators got off to a 1-4 start last season. Scoring points proved to be a problem.

"We're trying to spread the field out a bit more," Drisdelle said, "and try to take advantage of what other teams traditionally do on defence."

The Gladiators were a charter member of the Maritime league, which is now entering its sixth season.

"I'm really humbled and I feel honoured to be part of this," Drisdelle said. "This is my fourth season with the team and it's amazing to see the growth in women's football.

"Last fall we started a team for 14 to 17 (year-olds), which is going to be a great feeder system for us," he said. "The stability of the league really seems to be set now and rooted."

Drisdelle plans to remain involved indefinitely.

"I'm loving every minute of it," he said. "I coach in the fall with boys (FHS Junior Black Kats) and this is just as rewarding and sometimes a little more fun."