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Season Preview: Women’s Maple League 2024

The last bit of winter is finally behind us, hopefully, and we can turn our focus to the

upcoming Maple League Seasons. This year we will have a fewer updates on the

Women’s Maple League than last season, but the updates will still be useful and

interesting for old and new followers alike.


The Finnish football community has been lucky with getting a fifth team to compete on

the highest national level, after last year’s (let’s be honest) lame season with only

four teams. So, we warmly welcome the Wasa Royals to the Maple League hassle, and wish

them and older teams equally loads of good luck as we enter the season! Let’s kick off

the Women's Maple League 2024 season with a look at each team and opening week games.


Turku Trojans

The reigning champs ,Turku Trojans, have faced some changes in their roster. The major

losses take place on their defensive side, since the tackling beast Essi Saastamoinen is

playing with DC Divas in the WFA across the pond. Other linebackers, except for Kaisla

Honkaniemi, have also left the team. The defensive backfield remains strong with Olga

Wasenius, Hilma Kuitunen, and others continuing as we are accustomed to seeing

them last year. The defensive line has faced some changes, but some familiarity

remains there as well.


Turku's offense is very much like what we saw last year. Lea Kaszas plays QB and will be

throwing balls to the trio of Kirsti Nirhamo, Suvi Partanen and Tia Jansen. The backfield

will be familiar with Laura Pulkkinen, Matilda Berndtsson and Ainara Olmedo. Ninni

Mäkinen remains at the center position, and there will be no major changes in other O-line positions either. The biggest change in the coaching staff will be last year’s offensive coordinator

Tuomas Mankki also filling the head coach shoes this season.


If the Trojans can keep up the level of their new defensive playmakers, possibly with help

from the farm agreement with Helsinki Roosters and Pirkkala Spartans, Turku has a

proper chance to win it's 4th championship in the row, cementing their dynasty in the

Finnish football story.


Helsinki Wolverines

The Wolverines’ offense remains under the skillful quarterbacking of Essi Söderholm and

Emmet Lappi. Wide receivers include Laura Ainamo, Anna Martola and Aino

Helskyaho, all of them provided us with some nice plays last year. At the running back position

are familiar names of Mari Jääskelä and Sini Ramela, big playmakers from 2023.


On both sides of the ball, especially the o-line and d-line, there are lots of new names from

the Kotka Eagles, but there are also familiar household Wolverines players, such as Anna-

Kaisa Saarenpää and Sandra Heikkerö. Other positions in the Wolverines defense have

lost some major names like Tiina Möttönen and Emmi Järn, while Janika Nikander is taking over the US with Saastamoinen and Anni Alanko (also familiar name from Wolverines’ 2023 roster). However, there is a chance that Anni Udd from Kotka and a young ball hawk Nelli Malk, who received a bunch of crucial interceptions last year, keep the Wolverines in the discussion of possible champions.


The Wolverines have a new head coach with Josh Claassen taking over the team as HC / DC.

The jaw-dropping running back legend Tytti Kuusinen explores a new role as the

offensive coordinator. We at AFF will be keeping an eye on how the new coaching staff

works, and if the young promising players help the Wolverines keep up the winning culture.


Tampere Saints

The Saints take a step back as they welcome national team QB Emilia Räty back to the quarterback position after last season’s stint on the D-line. This step back might turn out to be the right choice, since despite decent efforts last season, Tampere just didn’t score enough. We

can expect Lotta Ahonen to be the ball hawk we are used to see her as at wide receiever. Combines with Emma Kammonen at running back, the Saints have a good chance to get some

points on the board this season.


We cannot discuss the Tampere Saints without mentioning young superstar, Swiss Army

Knife, ball hawk, and powerful athlete Miina Laukkanen. She is officially listed as a

defensive back, but has proven herself to be a top tier player on both sides of the

ball, and on special teams. This youngling accumulated 49.5 all purpose yards per game last

season, not bad for a defensive back. The amount of Laukkanen names doubles this year as

Maija Laukkanen joins from the Kotka Eagles as a linebacker. We're looking forward to seeing how offenses can handle this mother-daughter duo.


The Tampere Saints are similar to the majority of the teams this season, in regard to changes in their coaching staff. Elina Leukkunen takes over the head coach position after a few years assisting.


Oulu Northern Lights

The most northern team of the league does not have too deep of a roster. At the time of

writing this, their website shows only 21 players, but we’ll see if quality beats quantity in

this case and if the farm agreement with the Jyväskylä Jaguars will help them with the

toughest spots.


The key playmakers from last season are mostly the same as they were last year with

Nea Törmänen at QB and Aino Lepojärvi at RB. It is expected that Oona Yliuntinen,

who played decent at wideout last year, will get more targets this season. Northern Lights

legend Natalia Raatikainen makes a comeback this year in the defensive backfield.


Joonas Taina keeps his spot as the head coach. It remains to be seen if the Northern

Lights can improve their spot from last year.


Wasa Royals

As a newcomer in the league, and with only 3 full seasons of existence all together, the Wasa Royals have caught at least my attention and interest, and I hope they bring a new set

of color and competition to the league.


The Royals have reinforcements from the Helsinki Wolverines in the shape of Janica Välimäki at Wide Receiver. Anni Alanko has also been helping the team during offseason, but may be too

busy in the US to get back to the domestic fields to help the team. The Royals offense is directed by QB Kia Hjerpe, who is only in her second season of playing American Football.


Most of the Royals players have experience between 1-3 seasons, but there are some rookies and

veterans from other teams as well. The Wasa Royals are coached by head coach and defensive

coordinator Pasi Roimela and offensive coordinator Anssi Viiru. They are the only

team who have designated Tight Ends in their roster, and I personally can’t wait to see

how they will be played.


Opening week games

Week 1 will kick off with the rematch of last year’s championship game, Wolverines at

Trojans. The game was a thriller that wasn’t solved until the final seconds with

unbelievable pass game by Lea Kaszas and her receivers. This year’s season opener

kicks off at 12:00 this Saturday in Turku, and it will be broadcast in Ruutu, as well as

every other game in both Maple Leagues. It will be interesting to see how both teams

have been rebuilding their defenses.


The newcomer Wasa Royals will begin their first Maple League Season with a bye-

week. The Oulu Northern Lights and Tampere Saints face off in Tampere, only an hour later

than the game kick off in Turku, so if anyone wants to catch both games at the same time, the two-screen

tactic is the only way.


We here at AFF are excited about this season and will keep a close eye on how the

season proceeds. It will not be a weekly update this year, but as the season goes on, we

will write some follow-ups, and within the month of May we will have an exciting

interview piece coming up from our ladies in the States, but more on that later.


Best of luck to all the players and the teams for the upcoming season! Football is back,

baby!

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