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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 14, 2006

Fusion struck by Lightning, 14-13

Playoffs end in Oklahoma City
for Cleveland team

Oklahoma City--The 2006 season for the Cleveland Fusion ended Saturday night on the grassy field of Oklahoma City�s Taft Stadium. It was a hot, muggy night, providing a suitable background for the sometimes sluggish defensive battle between two usually high-scoring teams, with the home-town Lightning ending up on top, 14-13.

There were numerous penalties for both teams; the final one with 20 seconds left on the clock proving no hindrance to the Lightning, as they ran 7 yards on a 2-point conversion attempt, rather than just the 2 they originally needed. There was no time left for the Fusion to respond.

The Lightning scored first, with 6:51 left in the 2nd quarter, on a 3 yard run by Christina Williams. Hannah Jackson�s kick was no good, and the first half ended with the score Lightning 7, Cleveland 0.

It was the first meeting between these two teams: the Fusion, seeded fourth in the Northern Conference, and the first-place Lightning from the South. Each team had periods of brilliance set off by ineptness. Penalties and fumbles marked the battle for field position, along with changes of possession.

Late in the third quarter, however, the Fusion began to march toward their goal line. Eleven plays took them 79 yards before quarterback Casey Stinson scrambled her way out of a blitz for a 34 yard touchdown with 13:50 to go in the final quarter. Jennifer Sheldon�s kick was good, putting the Fusion ahead 7-6.

Not quite ten minutes later, another 11-play sequence took the Fusion 78 yards capped by a Danielle Lurry 2-yard run into the end zone. Sheldon�s kick didn�t make it this time, but the Fusion still held the lead at 13-6.

With just 20 seconds showing on the clock, Oklahoma City�s Mindy Walker caught a 2-yard pass from quarterback Kim Mitchell to bring the score to 13-12. To no one�s surprise, they opted for a two-point conversion attempt. The first try resulted in a 5-yard penalty for a false start. On the second one, Williams ran to the right, crossing the line to put the Lightning up by one point. It was enough.

Stinson had one of her less successful nights: 9 completions in 32 attempts for 68 yards. She was sacked twice. She also carried 3 times for 43 yards and a touchdown, however. Shauna Nevel caught 5 passes for 37 yards. The leading rusher, Martina Latessa, carried 16 times for 62 yards, while rookie Erica Ware had 56 yards on 6 carries.

Defensively, Peru Barber had 3 solo tackles, 3 assists and a sack; Denise Alexander and Veronica Rucker each had 4 solos and 2 assists, but Alexander also had an interception and a pass deflect. Stefanie Russo had 3 solos, 5 assists and caused a fumble.

Although the season is over for the Fusion for this year, the National Women�s Fottball Association playoffs will continue on July 22. The Massachusetts Mutiny travel to Oklahoma City, and the D.C. Divas will host the Columbus Comets. The winners will meet in the league championship game to be played in Pittsburgh on Saturday, August 5. Information is available at the league�s website:

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