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Sharks look for redemption in all-star game

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The New York Sharks came up short of an Independent Women’s Football League championship earlier this month, falling 40–34 to the Minnesota Vixens in the second round of the playoffs, but the squad is not sunk yet.

Ten players from the team were selected for the league All-Star game on July 23, part of a full weekend of events before the championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Sharks will send quarterback Karen Mulligan, wide receivers Erika Cottle and Maggie Natell, offensive lineman Stephanie Reynolds, defensive ends Tynisha George and Delamara Reece, linebackers Brooklyn Fields and Gabriella Farrell, and cornerbacks Nhandi Brown and Jewell Grimsley.

The group is hoping that the all-star game will help erase some of the more painful memories from the season-ending loss.

“Playing in the all-star game will mean a lot to me,” Brown said. “It shows me that when you put in all the hard work and dedication it shows others you can do anything. I could not have achieved my goals if it was not for my Shark family.”

The Sharks matchup against Minnesota wasn’t just a difficult end to the season, it was also a historic rematch.

The last time the two teams met was in 1999 when the Vixens were barnstorming through the United States, showing that women were playing tackle football. At that time, the Sharks were a well-known flag football team on Long Island. A challenge gave the Sharks just two months to prepare, but the squad found a way to edge out a 12–6 victory.

During the 2016 matchup, however, New York wound up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

Both teams had an 8–0 record with the Vixens coming in as the Midwest Conference Champions and earning the home-field advantage in the St. Paul area.

The squads exchanged touchdowns throughout regulation and went into double overtime knotted at 34–34. The Vixens then – quite literally – grabbed the victory with a late interception, scoring the game-winning touchdown and sending the Sharks back to New York just short of the squad’s ultimate goal.

The Sharks didn’t capture a title, but the 10 players competing in this weekend’s all-star game are an example of just how much talent was on this year’s roster. New York finished the season among the top five in several statistical categories, including Mulligan’s league-leading 1,104 passing yards.

The group is going to do its best to represent the squad well in North Carolina, but the players are also determined to have fun in their last game on the gridiron this summer.

After all, that’s what defined this season — fun.

“This particular season has been amazing, full of great battles between my team and others,” Brown said. “It has been a wonderful adventure for me, and I am so happy that I was able to spend time with these amazing women. Working with this team was simply magical and so much love between each of us.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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