Josh Kessler | St. Michael’s College
COLCHESTER, Vt. – Saint Michael’s College Alpine skiing alumna Kara Gailiunas ’20 capped her first season of professional football by helping the Boston Renegades win their fourth consecutive Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) National Championship on Sunday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, broadcast live on ESPN2.
“I’ve had plenty of experience with missing the mark or being a runner-up, so it truly is an extraordinary feeling to win it all — it is surreal,” said Gailiunas, who won her first title in any sport. “I am proud of this team. I am honored to be a part of this team, and I am proud of the work we put in together to be better every day in every aspect of the game. I am grateful for teammates that taught me, encouraged me, and had my back as I learned. I am already looking forward to putting in the work to earn the next one.”
A former two-year Purple Knight captain, Gailiunas was a key special teams player and defensive back for the Renegades — by the fourth contest of the season, she was named a game captain — and headed into the title game tied for third on the team in solo (13), assisted (25) and combined (38) tackles. In Boston’s 42-24 win against the Pittsburgh Passion in the semifinals, Gailiunas registered five tackles, including four on kickoff coverage alone. On Sunday, the Renegades suffocated the Minnesota Vixen’s scoring offense (38.5), which was third in the league, during a 32-12 victory, extending their winning streak to 31, and their title run to four years (2018-19, 2021-22).
Against the Vixen, Gailiunas was spotted contributing all over the field, making a solo tackle in the flat one minute, meeting Minnesota’s running back just beyond the line of scrimmage as part of a key stop in the red zone another, and often ending up on the turf among multiple Renegades combining for a gang tackle. Boston led 20-0 at halftime and held the Vixen off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter. The win helped the Renegades cap their third straight undefeated season, and fourth in five years. Boston is 44-3 since 2017. In a previous incarnation as the Boston Militia, which included three years in the Independent Women’s Football League and five in the WFA, the franchise won three additional titles (2010-11, 2014).
Gailiunas, who accumulated seven top-40 finishes as a regular in the Purple Knights’ lineup during her junior and senior years of Alpine skiing, is no stranger to field sports, having played three years of lacrosse at Green Mountain Valley School in Waitsfield, where she was all-state in 2015. “Returning to a team was exactly what I needed,” she said. “It was one of the missing pieces from my life that I forgot I needed. For me, one of the best feelings is having a shared goal and striving for excellence with a group of competitive and dedicated individuals. Even more than that, coming from a primarily individual-sport background, I truly got a new experience when it comes to being a part of a team. We all serve a role on the field, and I know that every single player has my back.”
Since graduating from Saint Michael’s, Gailiunas has held roles in the athletic departments of Boston College and Harvard University, not far from her native Falmouth, Mass. She helped manage Boston College’s Alpine skiing program, which sent its first full team to the NCAA Championship in 2021 and claimed the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association’s (EISA) top-ranked female in the giant slalom, and was recently promoted on the Harvard Recreation & Wellness staff.
Upon joining the Renegades this spring, Gailiunas found a steep learning curve made easier by the capable coaches and teammates around her. “I started out with pretty much just athleticism in my toolbox when it comes to football,” she said. “For the first several months of rookie camp and preseason, I felt like I was trying to drink out of a fire hose when it came to processing and learning the specifics of the game. The Renegades staff are terrific and broke down my positional role as simply as possible and focused on the fundamentals. The most critical people in my learning process were the veterans in my position group. They must’ve answered hundreds of questions for me, many of them repeats. It took a lot of long Zoom calls, hundreds of hours of film sessions/review, and practices with great coaches and players to make me game ready. I am pleased with how quickly I was able to pick some things up this season, but I am still very much a rookie and have so much to learn.”
The WFA, which has more than 60 teams across three divisions, is the longest-running active women’s football league in the country, beginning play in 2009. The professional, full-contact WFA is the largest 11-on-11 football league for women in the world, and continues helping grow the game internationally.