Sports

Queens of the Gridiron

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Serrah Lee and Meling Hayes always had a goal of playing football. They would watch NFL games on Sundays, wanting to be in the trenches with shoulder pads, mud and offensive linemen hanging off of their bodies.

There was just one big problem — the Hayes sisters are girls.

“When we were little, we played all the time,” Serrah said. “It’s something we dreamed about forever. My dad always wished we were boys so he could watch us play football.”

He now has that opportunity.

The Hayes sisters are in the midst of their second full season playing for the Tacoma Majestics — a full-contact team that competes in the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL). The league, which began competition in 2000, has 21 teams nationwide and more than 700 volunteer players looking for their chance at a pancake block or endzone dance their male counterparts have been doing for decades. The Majestics are the only full-contact women’s team in Washington.

“It’s extremely rough,” Serrah said. “Women’s football is really aggressive. You get in a certain mindset and realize that the girl on the other side is after you and you can’t feel bad about hurting them. You just help them back up after the play is over.”

The Hayes sisters, who both graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and still make their home in Federal Way, start side-by-side on Tacoma’s defensive line and wear numbers 77 and 78. They also play tackle on the offensive line. Serrah is 5-foot-8, 280 pounds and Meling is listed at 5-10 1/2 and 250 pounds.

“I love to play defense a lot better,” Meling said. “I like to go through the line and get the quarterback. On offense you have to remember all the plays and what is going on.”

The Hayes sisters and the rest of the Majestics have established themselves as one of the better women’s teams around the nation. Tacoma dominated the IWFL’s Pacific Northwest Division during the regular season, racking up a perfect 8-0 record by outscoring their opponents an astounding 246-61. The team features a stifling defense that has shut out four opponents. The Pacific Northwest Division includes teams from Boise, Eugene, Portland and Corvallis.

The Majestics face their stiffest test Saturday when they take on the defending IWFL champion Sacramento Sirens at 7 p.m. at Sunset Chevrolet Stadium in Sumner in the first round of the playoffs. Sacramento (7-1) beat Tacoma 45-0 in Sacramento during last year’s playoffs.

“We have before us the biggest challenge in all of sports,” said Majestics coach Kris Olsen about playing the defending league champs. “Sacramento is a class organization and we look forward to facing them in front of a friendly crowd. This is by far the biggest game in the history of women’s football in Washington.”

Last year’s loss to Sacramento is the only blemish in the three-year history of the Majestics. The team is 23-1 overall.

“We are really looking forward to that one,” said Meling, who goes by the nickname Pinky on the football field. “We have watched some film on them and they are a fast team. But we are a different team than last year.”

The Majestics are not a rag-tag group of ex-high school jocks who get together on game day and draw up plays in the huddle. Olsen and the team practice three times a week from December through July and have an offensive playbook that would rival any high-school program. Tacoma’s roster includes 26 women, who all play on both sides of the ball.

The Hayes sisters were fastpitch players during their prep days and really had no intentions of getting involved in tackle football. That was until fellow TJ grad and Majestics linebacker/fullback Adreanna “Campy” Campolo saw Meling working at the Target store in Federal Way.

“I’ve known her since elementary school,” said Meling, who graduated in 2000. “She told us to come down to practice and we liked what we saw.”

But, unlike their NFL counterparts, the women on the Majestics’ roster aren’t driving around in Bentleys or playing in front of 80,000 screaming fans. Tacoma players don’t receive a paycheck and actually shell out about $1,000 to cover travel expenses, uniforms and field rental costs. Their games are usually attended by a couple hundred fans – a bulk of which are family and friends of the players.

In short, they play for the love of football. Meling works the 4 a.m.-12:30 p.m. shift at Target and Serrah, a 1999 TJ grad, works graveyard at the Federal Express Ground plant in Auburn.

“In the two years that I have been playing, I’ve formed lasting friendships with all the girls,” Serrah said. “I’m proud to call them my sisters. They’ve helped me learn a lot about myself in ways that I thought you had to learn on your own, but I was wrong. I’ve met a lot of women I normally wouldn’t have socialized with or talked to and now I love them like family. I would play with this group of wonderful women anytime because it’s the best feeling in the world to be out there on that football field with them.”

Other teams around the IWFL have established sponsors, who cover some of the expenses associated with playing football around the Pacific Northwest. Tacoma officials are still looking for anyone who might be interested in sponsoring the team.

“We totally love what we are doing,” Serrah said. “We love the team and wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t worth it.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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