WNBA Finals: Connecticut Sun stay alive with resounding Game 3 win over Las Vegas Aces

Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun is congratulated by teammate Jonquel Jones.
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The Connecticut Sun kept their championship aspirations alive Thursday with a resounding win over the Las Vegas Aces in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals. Sun forward Alyssa Thomas wrote a new entry in the record books with the first triple-double in WNBA Finals history, scoring 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists.

Las Vegas, which holds a 2-1 series lead, was led by Jackie Young with 22 points, while 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson added 19. Kelsey Plum chipped in 17 and Chelsea Gray scored 11. The top-seeded Aces will have a second attempt to close out their first title in franchise history on the road Sunday afternoon in Game 4 (4 p.m. ET on ESPN).


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3: Post-game quotes

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas on historic triple-double performance: “That’s what I’ve been doing all season. We’ve been struggling offensively and finally got a game back at home. Me and my teammates were making shots, so none of this is ever possible without them.”

Sun head coach Curt Miller on Alyssa Thomas (video below): “She’s probably the toughest player I’ve ever coached, but she’s the most consistent player in terms of effort that I’ve ever been around. I know what I’m going to get every single day. That’s how she plays and that’s what makes her special. She doesn’t know how to play other than that way.”

Aces head coach Becky Hammon on Game 3 loss: “This game was about physicality and mental toughness and they smoked us on it. Period. The physical follows but the mental for them was there and not us. And kudos to them for executing their game plan and executing it hard. They didn’t do a whole lot different, they just did it harder. They’ve been blitzing us the whole series, they just did it harder and we responded soft.”

Sun’s DeWanna Bonner on Alyssa Thomas’ triple-double: “When you say the engine, she’s the engine. You know, you don’t use that [word] loosely, so shout out to her. We were just able to hit a couple of shots tonight so that she can get her triple-double. So she needs to thank me.” [Laughter ensues.]

Aces’ A’ja Wilson on what went wrong in first quarter as Sun outscored Aces, 34-19: “Defense, defense. We just were not locked in on the defensive and we were a step slow on the defensive end. And that fuels our offense. So we have to be more locked in on the defensive side, more than anything, when you’re playing against a team like Conn. And so for us to come out and lack that, it was gonna be a long game for us regardless of who we played.”

Sun’s Jonquel Jones on Game 3 win: “I think it’s just the MO of our team: When our backs are against the wall, we play really good basketball. Sometimes you wish that you didn’t put yourself in those positions, but that’s done now. All we can do is focus on the next game.”

Aces’ Jackie Wilson on her 22-point performance and what Vegas needs to do in Game 4: “I just did what I supposed to do — knock down open shots. They were leaving me open. I just have to step into it with confidence and make the shot. Besides that, we’ll make a few adjustments. We made it too easy for them. They’re a physical team, and we just have to match their physical energy.”


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3: Fourth-quarter live updates

9:10 Q4: There it is! First triple-double in WNBA Finals history, recorded by Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas (video below). Thomas’ assist on the layup by DeWanna Bonner gives her 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Sun lead 83-69. Additionally, Thomas’ 15 boards is a new postseason career high, and she also becomes the first player to record a triple-double in both a regular season contest (two) and postseason contest in a single season.

5:37 Q4: Nearly midway through the fourth quarter, DiJonai Carrington makes two free throws to give the Sun a 92-76 lead. Carrington has nine points and one steal off the bench.

4:22 Q4: Aces head coach Becky Hammon takes out her starters, obviously preparing for a Game 4 in Connecticut. Jackie Young leads all scorers with 22 points, while A’ja Wilson has 19 points, Kelsey Plum 17 and Chelsea Gray 11. Sun lead, 94-76.

0:00 Q4: The Sun pull off the win to keep their championship dreams alive, closing with a 19-0 run to beat the Aces 105-76.


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3: Third-quarter live updates

8:59 Q3: The Sun start the third quarter with five unanswered points including a three from DeWanna Bonner (video below), pushing the lead to 58-42. The Sun set two WNBA Finals records in the first half, scoring the most points in the first quarter of a WNBA Finals game (34) and the most assists in any half of an WNBA Finals game (19).

2:56 Q3: Courtney Williams’ jumper from 21 feet makes it 73-61 and all five Sun starters are now in double-digit points. Jonquel Jones leads Connecticut with 18 points.

1:31 Q3: A’ja Wilson’s layup makes it a nine-point game, at 75-66.

0:00 Q3: The Aces win the third quarter, 27-24, but the Sun maintain their advantage and head into the fourth quarter up 77-69.


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3: Second-quarter live updates

8:35 Q2: The Sun pick up where they left off in the first quarter, making two unanswered buckets including a three from Natisha Hiedeman to extend the lead to 20 points (39-19).

6:17 Q2: A’ja Wilson ends a five-minute scoring drought for Last Vegas, but the Aces still lag behind by 20 points (41-21).

26.8 Q2: As the second quarter winds down, Connecticut maintains its commanding lead at 53-39. However three Aces players — Wilson, Chelsea Gray (video below) and Jackie Young have all reach double digits in scoring.

0:00 Q2: Huge three from Kelsey Plum (video below), who swishes it from 41 feet at the buzzer, cutting the Aces’ deficit to 11 points at the half (53-42).


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3: First-quarter live updates

9:35 Q1: Newly named All-WNBA First Team selection A’ja Wilson gets the first points (video below) on the board for Vegas for the third straight game.

4:58 Q1: Midway through the first quarter and Aces lead, 15-11 behind nine points from Jackie Young (video below). She had just five points in Game 2.

3:15 Q1: The Sun take their first lead of Game 3 on a bucket from DeWanna Bonner, 19-17.

2:13 Q1: DeWanna Bonner swishes a three-pointer in what feels like a change in momentum for Connecticut. The Sun have scored 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting (80%).

0:00 Q1: The Sun finish the quarter on a 10-1 run and lead by 15 at 34-19. Jonquel Jones (video below) has 18 points while Alyssa Thomas is one assist away from a triple-double (12 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists).


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3 pre-game: A’ja Wilson leads All-WNBA team selections

Ahead of Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, the league announces its All-WNBA selections, featuring 2022 WNBA MVP and Las Vegas forward A’ja Wilson and Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart as unanimous first-team picks. Joining them on this year’s First Team are Aces guard Kelsey Plum, Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith and Chicago Sky center-forward Candace Parker.

This year’s All-WNBA Second Team includes Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas, New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, Sun forward Jonquel Jones and Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles. This marks the eighth all-WNBA Team selection for Fowles, who retired at the end of this season.


WNBA Finals Game 3: What’s at Stake

  • The Connecticut Sun look to stave off elimination in their first game at home since Game 4 of their semifinals series win vs. the Seattle Storm on Sept. 6. The No. 3 seeded Sun hope home-court advantage will provide the boost they need in pursuit of the franchise’s first-ever WNBA title. The Sun have previously qualified for the WNBA Finals three times (most recently in 2019).
  • Now in their fifth year as the Las Vegas Aces, the franchise is looking to capture its first WNBA title under first-year head coach and 2022 WNBA Coach of the Year Becky Hammon. This marks the second time the Aces have appeared in the Finals, after losing in a three-game sweep to the Seattle Storm in 2020. Las Vegas looks to extend its lead to 2-0 before heading to Connecticut for Game 3 on Thursday.

Refresher: Aces take 2-0 series lead behind A’ja Wilson’s second straight double-double

The Las Vegas Aces extended their advantage over the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday, winning Game 2 of their best-of-five WNBA Finals series in decisive fashion, 85-71. The 2022 WNBA MVP, A’ja Wilson, powered the Aces with a game-high 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Chelsea Gray (21 points, eight assists) and Kelsey Plum (20 points, seven assists) punctuated the scoring with 20-point performances of their own.

The Sun were paced by Courtney Williams with 18 points and five assists. Also in double figures were Jonquel Jones (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Alyssa Thomas (13 points), while Brionna Jones came off the bench to score 12.


What they’re saying ahead of Game 3 between Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun:

Sun coach Curt Miller on approach to must-win Game 3: “You can’t think big picture. That becomes overwhelming and daunting and feels, at times, bigger. It’s too big. So you’ve got to drill it down. … All we’ll talk about is Game 3, and in particular, all we are going to talk about is the first quarter, and that’s our approach. I think if you start thinking we have to win three in a row, we have to do those kind of things, it becomes big. So we are going to talk about Game 3 and Game 3 only and be ready for that first quarter.”

Aces’ head coach Becky Hammon on balancing “the excitement of going up 2-0 but staying locked in”: “I mean, I don’t see any banners. I don’t see any balloons. Sure as hell glad I didn’t see that confetti again because we ain’t won nothing yet.”

Sun’s Jonquel Jones on mindset for Game 3: We have another opportunity. That’s why it’s a series, and like I said before, we’re going home and we’re going in front of our fans and we are going to use it to help us win the game.”

Aces’ Chelsea Gray on what it will take to close out the series: “I would say, ‘Not look too far ahead.’ We have to focus on winning that first quarter and winning that second quarter, and the big picture will happen. It’s the little things that gets the wins. It’s not like at the end you try to go and out-score somebody. It’s the little things. It’s the rebounding. It’s playing for each other — one more pass, one more play — and that’s what we have been doing all playoffs. We have to be able to do that for Game 3.”


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun: Leading scorers ahead of WNBA Finals’ Game 3

Aces leading scorers (postseason points average):

  • Chelsea Gray, 23.3
  • A’ja Wilson, 21.6
  • Kelsey Plum, 17.4
  • Jackie Young, 11.3
  • Riquna Williams, 6.1

Sun leading scorers (postseason points average):

  • Jonquel Jones, 14.6
  • DeWanna Bonner, 12.0
  • Alyssa Thomas, 11.6
  • Brionna Jones, 10.4
  • Courtney Williams, 9.5

2022 WNBA Finals Schedule: Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun

Note: Games marked with an asterisk (*) are if necessary

  • Game 1: Sunday, Sept. 11 — Connecticut at Las Vegas
    • Las Vegas wins, 67-64 (3 p.m. ET on ABC)
  • Game 2: Tuesday, Sept. 13 — Connecticut at Las Vegas 
    • Las Vegas wins, 85-71 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN)
  • Game 3: Thursday, Sept. 15 — Las Vegas at Connecticut 
    • 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Game 4*: Sunday, Sept. 18 — Las Vegas at Connecticut 
    • 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Game 5*: Tuesday, Sept. 20 — Connecticut at Las Vegas
    • 9 p.m. ET on ESPN

MORE WNBA: 2022 WNBA Finals — Las Vegas vs. Connecticut schedule, how to watch, results

Diana Flores looks to break down gender barriers with turn as AFC offensive coordinator in 2023 Pro Bowl

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Diana Flores admits she was surprised when she became a viral sensation last spring, courtesy of a 15-second slow-motion clip showcasing her evasive maneuvers and fancy footwork while leaving at least three defenders in the dirt during Mexico’s 2022 national collegiate flag football championship.

“I never expected someone to record that moment,” said Mexico City native Flores, who led her team – the Monterrey Tech Borregos – to their third consecutive national title as a senior last May. “I was just having fun. I was just playing the game I love and then days later to see that it was viral on the internet — it was crazy. But at the same time, it was exciting because I remember when I was younger, I didn’t have a lot of flag football role models to follow. So now, for me to be a role model for many boys and girls that play my sport is something that really makes me happy and proud and also motivates me to keep getting better.”

Flores, who led the Mexico Women’s National Flag Football Team to a gold medal at the 2022 World Games, will have the chance to promote her sport on one of the world’s biggest stages this weekend when she serves as the AFC offensive coordinator for the NFL’s 2023 Pro Bowl Games, featuring the first-ever AFC vs. NFC Flag football games on Sunday in Las Vegas.

Organized in partnership with RCX Sports, the NFL’s flag football operating partner, and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), Sunday’s Pro Bowl event will feature three 7-on-7 AFC vs. NFC flag games. Each game will be 20 minutes in length (two halves) and played on a 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones. Flores will be joined by Peyton Manning as the AFC head coach and Ray Lewis as defensive coordinator. On the NFC side, U.S. Women’s National Flag Football team quarterback Vanita Krouch will serve as offensive coordinator, with Eli Manning as NFC head coach and DeMarcus Ware as defensive coordinator.

“I think that this has been one of the best things in my life,” she recently told On Her Turf about her Pro Bowl appointment. “It is like a dream. I mean, I grew up watching football, watching the NFL, playing flag football. And now to be able to be part of all of this — it is bigger than my biggest dreams.”

Flores’ football dreams began as when she was just 8 years old. Her father — who played quarterback for the perennial football powerhouse Monterrey Tech program — took her to a practice and she fell in love with the sport. But as the time there were no teams for girls her age, so she played with girls twice her age and used it to her advantage, focusing on her own abilities and sharpening her skills. By age 14 she was playing NFL Flag in Mexico, where she was the only girl in the league, and at 15 she started playing NFL Flag in the U.S, where she finally played on an all-girls team.

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: U.S. flag football star Vanita Krouch ‘living the dream’ ahead of NFL Pro Bowl debut as NFC coordinator

“I remember when I started playing, I used to receive a lot of like comments, directly and indirectly from other people, like, ‘Why do you play that sport? That’s not a girls’ sport, that sport is for boys, you’re get injured, you’re going to get hurt, don’t play with boys, that’s too rude.’ And the list keeps going. But my mom and dad were so supportive. They always encouraged me not to listen to anybody, to just follow my passion.

“And I think thanks to them, I’ve always had this mentality that gender doesn’t matter. It just matters how passionate you are about your dreams, how hard you work for what you want to achieve. And that you will always demonstrate what you’re made for, depending on the hard work you do. So, I’ve lived through that [negativity], I have experienced that. And I think that it has been one of my biggest blessings to be able to experience — for myself — what sport can do and how gender barriers get broken when you follow your dreams and you connect with other people through your passion.”

At just 16 years old, Flores made Mexico’s national team, playing in the first of four Flag Football World Championships – so far. Last summer at the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, the 24-year-old Flores led Mexico to a 6-0 record, which included two wins over the U.S. women, who took silver. In the gold medal game against the United States, she completed 20 of 28 pass attempts for 210 yards and four touchdowns in Mexico’s 39-6 victory. She finished the tournament with 23 touchdown passes, the third-most among women’s teams, and she was the only starting quarterback to beat USA’s star QB, Krouch, who is 19-1 in international tournament play.

All that international experience so early in her career has given Flores a wise-beyond-her-years approach to playing flag football, a sport where she was frequently the only female player on the field and often the only Latin American as well.

“When I first came to the U.S., it was a little shocking to notice that I was probably the only Latin American girl playing,” she recalls. “But I think that it was easy for me because I got all the support from my coaches and my teammates. And since a young age, I think that I started to realize that sometimes what you do is for something bigger than yourself. That’s why you have to always give your best, in any situation. Even at that young age, I understood that I was representing more than myself on the field, I was representing Latin American people, Latin American girls in a sport that [many people thought] was meant to be for boys.”

RELATED: NFL still pushing for Olympic flag football with a chance ahead

One door Flores hopes to help open is the one leading to the Olympics. Flag football is on the short list being considered for inclusion in Los Angeles in 2028 Los Angeles. As an ambassador for flag football for the NFL and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), she’s participated in talks with the International Olympic Committee, and just last month she was joined by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden in Mexico City where they joined forced to promote women’s empowerment and inclusion.

“I think for me, that experience is one of my top three,” she said of spending time with Biden. “I call them gifts from life, something that you didn’t expect it to happen, and somehow, one day, you’re right there in front of the First Lady. I admire her for what she does for boys and girls, for empowering woman and giving opportunities for everybody to achieve their dreams. So it was truly an honor to meet her, and also to be able to keep impacting my sport, not only on the field, but [off] the field, and have the opportunity keep inspiring others and keep impacting the world.”

As for what she hopes fans at the Pro Bowl and viewers at home take away from Sunday’s flag football showcase, Flores hopes they’ll see the characteristics that made her fall in love with flag in the first place: creativity, speed, agility, teamwork, passion and a lot of heart.

“I hope to show to all little girls and women that dreams come true, that nothing is impossible, to keep inspiring and opening opportunities and doors for women in sports, especially in the world of the NFL and football and flag football,” she says. “We’re going to make history, and I am so proud and happy for that. I’m really hoping that it is just the first step, not only for me, but for all the women that are coming after me.”

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Flag football star Vanita Krouch ‘living the dream’ ahead of NFL Pro Bowl debut as NFC coordinator

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When Vanita Krouch got the news that she was named NFC offensive coordinator for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games, featuring the first-ever AFC vs. NFC Flag football games on Sunday, the U.S. Women’s National Flag Football team quarterback admits her jaw nearly hit the ground.

And then she realized something even more profound.

“For the longest time, thinking about the moment, everything, you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is a dream come true. Is this really happening?’” said the 42-year-old Krouch, known as the “Tom Brady of flag football” with a 19-1 record as USA’s starting quarterback in international tournaments since 2018.

“But then I started thinking to myself: You know what? None of us grew up thinking of this as a dream to obtain. So really, it’s kind of reversed where I’m living a dream. I get to be a pioneer in this growth of flag football for all and inclusion for all, youth and adults, [women and men]. It’s such an inclusive sport, and I get to be a part of this growth and still actively play. It’s exciting. I’m literally living the dream. I’m very much like, ‘Guys, don’t pinch me. Let me keep sleeping.’”

Organized in partnership with RCX Sports, the NFL’s flag football operating partner, and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), Sunday’s Pro Bowl event will feature three 7-on-7 AFC vs. NFC flag games. Each game will be 20 minutes in length (two halves) and played on a 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones. Krouch will be joined by Eli Manning as NFC head coach and DeMarcus Ware as NFC defensive coordinator. On the AFC side, Mexico Women’s National Flag Football quarterback Diana Flores will serve as offensive coordinator, with Peyton Manning as head coach and Ray Lewis as defensive coordinator.

But Krouch’s journey to the Pro Bowl stage began under the unlikeliest of circumstances and was inspired by her own family odyssey, which began in Cambodia during the horrific regime of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. Krouch’s mother, Phonnary Krouch, fled the country with three young sons in tow, running by night and hiding by day to escape, finding safety initially at a refugee camp in the Philippines. That’s where she welcomed Vanita, in September 1980, and two months later the family made its way to the United States. Krouch’s father exited the picture upon their arrival in America, leaving Phonnary to raise four children alone.

“In a nutshell, my mom is an amazing woman,” said Krouch, who first found sports via an elementary school flyer advertising youth soccer in Carrollton, Texas. “On the journey, she had a lot of trials, tribulations, … and after our dad left us, it was just mom and four kids in this little one-bedroom apartment. So, it was a challenge. I’m just so amazed by her strength and will to never give up.”

She also credits her mom for standing up to then-stereotypical notions that Asian girls should not play sports.

“I’m just thankful, honestly, that my mom allowed me to break the Asian culture barriers of a woman playing sports because that’s not easy,” she said. “She faced a lot of backlash from the community. But she said, ‘Hey, my child’s making good grades. She’s healthy, she’s good. She’s staying off the streets. I don’t see a problem.’ And she just let me do it. I was just lucky to have a mom that let me spread my wings.”

Krouch also had a few mentors along the way. Her elementary school PE teacher, Toni Neibes, stepped in to pay for those initial soccer fees and continued her support as Krouch transitioned to basketball in the fourth grade. She fell in love with the sport and excelled at it as well, eventually earning a full scholarship to play college basketball at Southern Methodist University. She wears the No. 4 to this day in honor of Niebes, who wore the same number as a young athlete. She also credits her fourth-grade teacher, Judy Ward, as having a lasting impact after the teacher made a habit out of showing up for her youth basketball games.

She pays tribute to them both through her clothing line, 4Ward Apparel, which features ever-changing collections emblazoned with relevant slogans encouraging female empowerment, inclusion and her personal mantra of “paying it forward” – something she does with the line itself. Each month, Krouch donates a portion of the sales to individuals, families or organizations in need.

After graduating SMU in 2003, Krouch continued to play basketball in semi-pro and adult leagues, but she was still searching for something to satisfy her competitive drive. She and a former college teammate stumbled on flag football during a Google search for local Dallas-area activities, and the rest – as they say – is history.

“It was like I drank the Kool Aid and I never looked back,” she says of her start in flag in 2006. “It’s just like every game, every play is a new challenge, and it’s addictive for a competitor, so I just fell in love with flag. I actually think I’m way better at flag than I was at basketball.”

She moved into the quarterback position through some sly maneuvering by current USA Women’s Flag Football head coach Chris Lankford. They were playing together in a local tournament when he “tricked” her into the QB position, despite Krouch knowing “zero football language.”

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“One day I showed up for a tournament and I asked, ‘All right, guys, who’s our quarterback?’ And he says, ‘We’re looking at her,’” she remembers. They kept the plays simple, and her team made it to the playoffs that season. Krouch has been a QB ever since.

Krouch joined the national team in 2016 and was inducted into the National Flag and Touch Football Hall Fame that same year. Last year at the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, a 41-year-old Krouch set a new mark as the oldest Flag football player, man or woman, in the games, and she ranked second among women with 25 touchdown passes at the tournament where USA won silver.

She aims to bring that expertise to the field at the Pro Bowl games, where she’s looking forward to seeing NFL players take on the flag football style type of plays. “Flag is a very finesse, quick game, a lot of footwork, and these guys can’t grab or hold, no downfield contact or downfield block or anything off the line,” she explains. “So it’s going to be exciting just to see skill for skill, footwork for footwork, defense to offense, and to see flag football language with those type of elite athletes.”

As for the biggest challenge, Krouch believes it will be crafting a concise playbook and language that puts everyone on the same page. “A challenge for me is getting a coach’s mindset,” she adds, “I have to actually come up with plays ahead of time and I don’t usually have premeditated plays in my head. I just read it so for me to tell Kirk Cousins or Geno Smith [what to do], it will be different, you know?”

But beyond the Pro Bowl, Krouch is excited that flag is being considered for inclusion as an exhibition sport in the 2028 Summer Olympics. While she’s keeping a hopeful eye on that development, she’s also working to shape the next generation of potential athletes as a physical education teacher at La Villita Elementary in Irving, Texas.

RELATED: NFL still pushing for Olympic flag football with a chance ahead

“It’s an honor to be a role model – for other youth flag football players, for my students, both boys and girls,” says Krouch. “Then at my campus and in my community, it’s amazing to be able to break the barrier of like, ‘Asian women can’t do this.’ And then to be at my age, still doing this, I feel very lucky and blessed. …I think I still got some years in me.”

As for what she hopes viewers and fans walk away with after watching the Pro Bowl flag games this weekend, Krouch feels confident folks will walk away enlightened by the show.

“I just hope that they have fun with it,” says Krouch. “And for those who don’t know flag to be like, ‘Wow, that’s really amazing. Maybe that’s something I really can get my son or daughter into at a young age.’ So I just hope that they see that the sport is real – it’s not just something we play at recess. It’s a real thing now. I think they’ll see that the world loves it, the world can play it and is playing it.”

Be sure to check back with On Her Turf later this week when we catch up with AFC coordinator and Mexico Women’s National Flag Football Team quarterback Diana Flores.  

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