UCF recently captured its fourth consecutive women’s flag football national championship as the Knights, known as ‘Team Check on It,’ locked down the North Carolina A&T Aggies in the championship game 13-2. The University of West Florida hosts the NIRSA Championship Series National Flag Football Tournament annually the first weekend of January.
UCF’s Tatianne DeAraujo won her third consecutive tournament Most Valuable Player award and was the defensive star of the women’s bracket. DeAraujo and teammate Megan O’Hara both took home All-Tournament Team honors. O’Hara threw for a 28-yard score to her sister Kaitlin and DeAraujo added a 16-yard touchdown in the championship game. UCF Men’s, Women’s and CoRec flag football teams have now won 14 national titles since the first tournament in 1979, the most flag football titles of any school.
Rainy and cold weather made pool play tougher than in years past. UCF, known for big plays in the passing game, instead used a heavy dose of the run and shorter passes to go undefeated throughout pool and championship play. Check on It head coach Brandon Baroody says the adjustments were the key to winning early in the tournament, “One of the games (in pool play against Texas State) it was really windy and rainy and our girls were noticeably shaking. We couldn’t throw or catch the ball, so we really had to fight to win that game in overtime.”
Baroody is a UCF alumnus and a member of the National Collegiate Flag Football Championships Hall of Fame. He has now won 11 national championships as a player or coach with UCF. He says the players deserve all the credit, “I started playing flag football for fun. I built relationship with friends and that transitioned me into coaching. If I didn’t have dedicated girls who want to compete, I probably wouldn’t still be coaching.”
DeAraujo, is the third UCF student to win multiple MVP awards and the first woman to accomplish that feat. She credits the UCF Intramural Sports experience with giving her the opportunity to compete. “My particular UCF intramural sports experience allowed me to learn key skills like working together in a group, executing under pressure, and being patient and not giving up no matter the circumstances,” she said. She is the 19th Knight to win the MVP award at the national tournament. Her all-tournament honors along with O’Hara’s means UCF has now had 47 All-Americans in the tournament’s history.
UCF Intramural Sports are part of University of Central Florida’s Recreation and Wellness Center, funded and supported by the Student Government Association.
In other flag football news, the National Collegiate Flag Football Championships Hall of Fame enshrined UCF alumna Leisha Cavallaro ‘11 into the Hall of Fame during a ceremony last month in Pensacola. She joins Nick Brigati, a former UCF IM Sports graduate assistant, as the only two UCF Knights in the Hall of Fame for officiating. Two other Knights, Brandon Baroody ‘12 and Drew Hill ’11, are in the NCFFC Hall of Fame as players.
Quick thinking, strategically based decision making and confidence and humility are all attributes Cavallaro said she learned while playing flag football and working at the Recreation and Wellness Center.
“I gained the ability to logically and strategically think through situations to respond in a more efficient manner especially in stressful situations. Everything I learned (as an UCF RWC staff member and official) has rolled over into my personal and professional life even now, six years after I graduated,” said Cavallaro.
Cavallaro was a successful flag football official and player during her time at UCF. Her accomplishments on the flag football field include:
Cavallaro, Steve Anderson (2002 and 2003) and Brandon Schwab (2012 and 2013) are the only UCF Knights to receive All-American Official honors in consecutive years in Flag Football. Anderson and Schwab are now enjoying success as basketball officials. Anderson is a fulltime NBA referee and Schwab is in the NBA Development league.