Thursday, August 10 2017 @ 03:58 PM ACST
Contributed by: Frederick Shaibani
While much of the International Cup coverage here in the States has focused on the Freedom and Revolution - and rightfully so - the USA Liberty women’s side has been heavily involved as well, embarking on their third Australia tour.
History of the USA Liberty
In 2009, the Liberty were born as a women’s developmental squad in association with the USA Freedom. That year, the Liberty showed their skills against several different Aussie women’s teams in several different cities, from Melbourne to Cairns. Following the success of this inaugural tour, the Liberty returned in 2011 to go up against the Canada Northern Lights in the 49th Parallel Cup.
In 2014, the Liberty joined the Freedom for the IC, returning the Melbourne and competing against several local sides. This was a very valuable experience for the players involved, many of whom use their experiences as a springboard for other representative spots, including on the Freedom Side for the IC and the 49th Parallel Cup. The team is currently coached by former Freedom star Judith Stein.
Round 1 Recap (August 5th)
The Liberty lost their opening match of the tour to an all-star Australian side composed of players from the Western Region Football League (WRFL) and the Essendon District Football League (EDFL). Erica Sacci and Amy Arundale -- both midfielders from the USAFL’s Philadelphia Hawks -- were both able to win some contested possessions and put some pressure on their Aussie opponents. Laure Kwoka was also a key presence defensively, while both Leilani Silvio and Karen Stablein were the Liberty’s goalkickers. While their defense held its ground during a number of passages of play, the Liberty weren’t able to overcome a slow start, falling by 32 points.
Final score: EDFL/WRFL All-Stars 6.11 (47), USA Liberty 2.3 (15)
Round 2 Recap (August 8th)
The Liberty held their ground in a defensive struggle on the night of August 8th, securing their first-ever international win over the Bulleen-Templestowe Bullants by 14 points.
It was a mild, clear night for footy down at Bulleen Park, and the two teams were a study in contrast. The Liberty boasted lots of experience, while the Bullants featured five players from their under-18 side.
Kwoka, Arundale, and Silvio were very influential around the contest again, with precise handballs and quality tackling. Silvio and Kwoka’s on-ground chemistry was apparent; both women played for the Sacramento Suns in the USAFL before Silvio switched over to the Los Angeles Dragons last year.
The Liberty backline held strong against the young talent on the Bullants’ side throughout the match. Rae Hale, Cailin Deal, and Valerie Barber-Axthelm were able to stave off the Bullants’ goalkickers.
Both teams weren’t as precise with their kicking as they should have been in the opening half, with several scoring opportunities falling by the wayside. But the Liberty refocused in the second half and were able to slot one set shot to Silvio and one to fellow midfielder Robyn Leslie.
The Liberty ultimately finished with a massive win, holding the Bullants goalless and prevailing 2.7 (19) to 0.5 (5). It’s the first-ever international win for the Liberty and they will carry significant momentum heading into an important clash on August 11th.
Round 3/Round 4/Round 5 Preview
The Liberty will have a few days to regroup before taking on Monash University’s women’s team on the 11th, West Brunswick Magpies on the 13th before finishing the tour against the against Oakleigh Krushers on Wed night.. You can find all the Liberty matches -- as well as the Freedom and Revolution games -- live streaming on the USAFL YouTube channel.