VALPARAISO | Whether as a player or as a coach, Jeanette Gray has suffered plenty of tough losses on the basketball court.
Loses in state playoff games and NCAA tournaments don’t compare however to the pain that Gray carries from last season’s loss in the Women’s Football Alliance Championship game.
Leading 36-27 with 2:28 left, Gray’s Chicago Force gave up back-to-back touchdowns to the San Diego Surge and fell 40-36 in the title game held at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
“Any athlete or coach that loses a game like that wants nothing more than the chance to get back and finish the job,” Gray said.
Gray and her teammates have that chance after completing a undefeated regular season followed by three playoff victories. The latest, a 46-27 win over the Boston Militia on July 20, have the Force playing in their third WFA title game in the last four years. They have yet to win the championship.
“A lot of people on my team have come out on the wrong end of these games,” Gray said. “All we want is one more chance to get back there and finally win a title.”
Gray already has a world championship on her mantle this season after she competed with Team USA in Finland. The Valparaiso native played alongside plenty of players from the Dallas Diamonds, the team Gray will be lining up against on Saturday in San Diego for the WFA title.
“We (Chicago) had the most players on Team USA and Dallas had the second most, so there will be some bragging rights on the line,” Gray said. “After playing in the national championship before, we know we have to play loose. We’ll go out and have fun, try to win, and enjoy every second of it.”
Gray doesn’t make any money off playing in the WFA and has to continually raise money in order to play. She knew almost immediately following last season’s loss to San Diego that she’d return for another year. Saturday could very well mark Gray’s final time on the field and if so, she wants to make sure she leaves a good impression.
“It’s going to take some thinking this year,” Gray said. “I knew once we lost last year that I couldn’t go out like that. I needed to get back and have another chance to win a title.”