Local women’s semi-pro tackle football team the Liberty Belles are in the midst of a wildly successful comeback season, heading into the playoffs undefeated.
The Belles were founded in 2001 but disbanded after that first year, reforming for the 2009 season. The team will play its last home game at 7 p.m. July 11 at 4800 Ditman St. in the Northeast against the Indiana Speed.
The Belles, a member of the Women’s Football Alliance, have an 8-0 record, having played four home and four away games since the start of the season in April. The team clinched the Northeast Division championship on June 6, crushing the New Jersey Titans 59-0.
The WFA is divided into two conferences, American and National; the Belles belong to the latter. While the Belles topped the five other teams in the Northeast Division, the West Michigan Mayhem and the Columbus Comets are also undefeated in the Central and Mid-Atlantic divisions, respectively. If the team is victorious against the Speed, which has a 6-2 record, it will face either the Mayhem or Comets, who will go head to head July 11.
The winner of that playoff game will head to New Orleans next month to battle the winner of the American Conference for the national championship.
Belles head coach Bill Sytsma said he’s confident the team can pull off the next two wins to make it to the championship.
“We’ve been pretty successful in the last few games, and I think if we continue to execute like we have been, we have a great shot at getting there,” he said.
The Belles have 38 players, who range in age from 18-42.
Sytsma said this is his first venture into coaching an all-women’s football team, and while it’s a different task than coaching high-schoolers, it’s one he’s welcomed.
“This is the first time I’ve done this; I’ve coached high-school football for the last eight years, so this was definitely a new experience for me, but also a very enjoyable one,” he said.
The coach noted that although this is the Belles’ first year playing since the team formed, the camaraderie among the players has fueled their continued success.
“They grasp the team concept,” he said. “They play as a unit. They play as one. They’re really good friends and understand how to work as a team, so they can just go out there and play and get the job done.”
Sytsma said the friends, families and fans of the players have also contributed to the momentum.
“We get a lot of community support,” he said. “Attendance at the games is great, and people have been nothing but supportive. We never get any boos, except when we’re on the road. The community has really been behind us.”
For more information about the team or to purchase tickets to the game, visit www.phillybelles.com.