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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Chicago Force players proud to represent USA
From a press release
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2013-05-28

This article shared 3906 times since Tue May 28, 2013
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Liz Okey struggles to put into words her thoughts of making Team USA, which will compete in the second International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Women's World Championship.

Okey said the honor of being selected as the Americans look to defend their title won in 2010 is a mix of "joy, gratitude, excitement and humility."

Okey, 28, who lives in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, is in her fifth season on the offensive line of the Chicago Force—and she is one of nine Force players selected, of 45 overall team members, spanning 15 states, for the 2013 U.S. Women's National Team.

The eight-nation football tournament, held every three years, runs June 28 — July 6 in Vantaa, Finland. Force head coach John Konecki of Schereville, Ind., is the Team USA head coach.

"As an athlete the opportunity to represent your country in international competition is truly the highest honor," said Okey, who was a four-year volleyball player at Kalamazoo College and a two-sport (volleyball and basketball) standout at Manchester (Mich.) High School. "Growing up, I've always been in awe of the athletes who competed in the Olympics. To know that I now have the honor of wearing the red, white and blue … I still can't believe it."

Added Konecki: "There is no higher honor than representing your country in international competition. Additionally, I am fully committed to advancing women's tackle football, and competing on a world stage allows for women to continue on with the mission of being ambassadors for the sport."

Okey, an out lesbian, is one of many under the LGBT banner set to represent the U.S.

"My greatest personal sporting moment [was] not winning a game, earning a trophy, breaking a record, or being named MVP. For me, my greatest sports moment was finishing Team USA trials," Okey said. "I had major surgery nine months [earlier after breaking] my fibula in the 2012 [Force] season and had 17 pieces of metal put in my leg. To be able to heal, rehab, train and compete with the top athletes in the nation [less than] a year after surgery … that was my greatest personal accomplishment."

Here's a look at the Chicago Force players named to the U.S. Women's National Team:

Liz Okey

Age: 28

Relationship status: Engaged

Orientation: Lesbian

A few facts: Has 12 years of classical ballet experience and six years on drum line.

Favorite sport (beside football): Volleyball

Favorite pro athlete: Israel Idonije

Cubs or White Sox: "Neither; I'm a [Detroit] Tigers fan."

Even my Force teammates will be surprised to know … "That one of my biggest Team USA sponsors outside of my family is a German couple who live in Berlin. Dagmar and Paul have been family friends for decades through a high school exchange program in my hometown. I'm lucky enough to have support all across the world, and thus, our game against Germany on July 4 is even more special."

Sami Grisafe

Age: 28

Lives in: Evanston

Relationship status: Single

Orientation: Lesbian

Sporting background: Was, in 2000, the first girl in California to play quarterback in a varsity Division I high school football game. Was captain of the boys freshmen football team in high school, was a two-year varsity softball and two-year varsity volleyball player. Plus, she played one year of junior varsity water polo and one year of JV basketball.

Schooling: Redlands High School, class of 2003; Chicago College of Performing Arts, Roosevelt University, class of 2007.

Years on Force: 7

Position: Quarterback

On making Team USA: "I feel honored to have the opportunity to represent my country playing the sport I fell in love with when I was a little girl. It's a dream I couldn't even imagine as a child. That being said, we will be writing the history of women's tackle football and that is a huge responsibility. Not only will the whole world be watching this summer, but the whole world will look back at us in the future as the trailblazers for this game. It's a great charge and I think all 45 of us are up for the challenge. "

Favorite sport (beside football): Volleyball

Favorite pro athletes: Joe Montana and Colin Kaepernick

Even my Force teammates will be surprised to know: "When I get frustrated in a game, their support means the world to me and it helps me move forward. Not sure if they will ever know how much they mean to me or how much they've taught me, but I love them dearly and they truly are my family."

Tami Engelman

Age: 30

Lives in: Avondale

Relationship status: "Taken"

Orientation: Bisexual

At Crystal Lake Central High School: Competed in track & field, and was a conference champion, school record holder and fourth-place in state in the shot put in 1999.

At Western Illinois University: Was a nine-time medal winner in the shot put, discus, hammer and indoor weight throw.

Years on Force: 4

Positions: Offensive guard and defensive tackle

On making Team USA: "I was initially shocked. After coming off a serious injury [last season,] I was not sure that I would be [for] the tryouts. I will be representing the USA in a game that

I absolutely love. I think about walking out onto the football field with USA on my head and chest and it gives me chills every time."

Greatest personal sports moment: "One of the greatest moments, yet hardest, was walking out of the tunnel onto Heinz Field [in Pittsburgh] with my team for the [2012] WFA Championship. Although I was injured in the previous game I was still so proud to be part of the Force and be able to make the historic trip with them.

Favorite sport (beside football): Track & field.

Favorite pro athlete: William Perry

Even my Force teammates will be surprised to know: "I'm super shy when put in awkward situations with people I don't know. I don't think Tami and shy would ever be in the same

sentence, if my teammates were talking about me."

Brandy Hatcher

Age: 27

Lives in: Andersonville

Relationship status: Single

Orientation: Lesbian

Sports background: Competed in high school track & field, and bowling

Years on Force: 4

Position: Running back

On making Team USA: "I successfully tricked them into letting me on the team, now I just have to trick the world into thinking I deserve it."

Greatest personal sports moment: "Making team USA."

Favorite sport (beside football): Beach volleyball

Favorite pro athlete: Barry Sanders

Even my Force teammates will be surprised to know: "I've flown around the world; I speak German and I was little Miss Michigan."

Dawn Pederson

Age: 38

Lives in: Andersonville

Relationship status: Married

Orientation: Gay

Sports background: Was varsity MVP for field hockey, soccer and track during her junior and senior seasons. Played field hockey for Ohio State University. Won a bronze medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1991 and was an alternate for the under-21 U.S. National Team.

Years on Force: 7

Position: Left tackle and long snapper

On making Team USA: "I am thrilled to be able to defend the championship we won in 2010 and I consider myself so lucky to have the honor of representing the United States again. The 2010 team made history and laid the groundwork for the future, and I hope to continue to build on what we started in 2010."

Greatest personal sports moment: "Scoring the game-winning goal in sudden-death overtime against the University of Iowa. It was the first time in 16 years that Ohio State had beaten Iowa."

Favorite sport (beside football): Field hockey

Favorite pro athlete: "I don't really have a favorite. I like the class acts who let their actions on the field speak for themselves."

Even my Force teammates will be surprised to know: "What I have accomplished on the field with football is all because of my wife. If she hadn't pushed me to be better I would not be where I am today."

Ashley Berggren

Age: 36

Lives in: Evanston

Sports background: All-American high school softball player, All-area volleyball, all-state basketball. All-American collegiate basketball player and conference player of the year.

Schools: Barrington high school, class of 1994; and the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, class of 1998

Years on Force: 3

Positions: Wide receiver and defensive end

On making Team USA: "It is the highest honor an athlete can achieve in any sport, and I'm grateful to be associated with such an amazing, inspiring group of female athletes and coaches."

Greatest personal sports moment: Winning a Big Ten championship."

Favorite sport (beside football): basketball

Favorite pro athlete: Walter Payton

Cubs or White Sox: Cubs

Jeanette Gray

Age: 32

Lives in: Highland, Ind.

Relationship status: In a Relationship

Sports background: Played volleyball, basketball and softball, and also was a golfer in high school. Played basketball in college.

Schooling: Valparaiso High School, class of 1999; Valparaiso University, class of 2003

Years on Force: 4

Position: Wide receiver

On making Team USA: "Absolutely humbled to represent my country, [and am] extremely excited to compete with and against the best players in the world."

Greatest personal sports moment: "Taking my Valparaiso University basketball team to [its] first-ever NCAA Tournament [appearance] as a senior year. That and playing in the WFA Championship game in Pittsburgh in 2012.

Favorite sport (beside football): basketball

Favorite pro athlete: LeBron James

Cubs or White Sox: White Sox

Jamie Menzyk

Age: 29

Lives in: Portage, Ind.

Relationship status: Single

Orientation: Lesbian

At Whiting (Ind.) High School: Played four years basketball, two years volleyball, four years softball, and one year of football.

At Calumet College of Saint Joseph: Played four years of basketball, two years volleyball, and three years softball.

Years on Force: 7

Position: Right guard

On making Team USA: "Am honored to have had the best coaching over the last several years to make me a top candidate to represent our great country."

Greatest personal sports moment: "Winning the gold medal in Sweden in 2010, and being named MVP of the Gold Medal Game."

Favorite sport (beside football): Hockey

Favorite pro athlete: Rebecca Lobo

Cubs or White Sox: White Sox

Even my Force teammates will be surprised to know: "I was the first female basketball player to score 1,000 points at Calumet College of Saint Joseph."

Kimberly Marks

Age: 31

Lives in: Bucktown

Relationship status: Married

Orientation: Gay

At Rich Central High School: Played volleyball, softball, basketball, and competed on the gymnastics team.

Years on Force: 7

Position: Defensive line

On making Team USA: "This is an amazing honor. Having participated in the tournament in 2010, I look forward to sharing this experience with all of the new players, as well as the returning players. I anticipate bringing home the gold again."

Greatest personal sports moment: "Has not happened yet; it will be celebrating after the Chicago Force wins the 2013 WFA Championship."

Favorite sport (beside football): Basketball

Favorite pro athlete: Ray Lewis

Cubs or White Sox: White Sox


This article shared 3906 times since Tue May 28, 2013
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