Back in 2001, the Fusion franchise was established as a member of the National Women’s Football League (NWFL). Over two weekends in November, more than 90 women from Northeast Ohio attended tryouts. After a two week mini-camp, a final roster of 50 women was selected to kick off the Fusion’s inaugural season in 2002.
The Fusion stunned the entire NWFL in its first season by achieving a regular season record of 6-2 and earning a spot in the playoffs. The team’s crowning achievement for the opening season was a 14-3 victory over the Detroit Danger, who would go on to win the 2002 NWFL SupHer Bowl.
In 2003, the Fusion moved to the National Women’s Football Association (NWFA) and attained a regular season record of 6-2, with both defeats coming at the hands of the re-named Detroit Demolition. The Fusion defeated the Baltimore Burn in the first round of the NWFA Playoffs, setting up a re-match against the Demolition in the second round. The Fusion lost 14-0, and the Demolition would go on to win three consecutive NWFA Championships.
In 2004, the Fusion became the first NWFA team to play in an NFL stadium, hosting the Columbus Comets in the season home opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Fusion ended the 2005 season with a record of 5-3, and had the privilege of playing at Ford Field, the Detroit Lions’ home stadium, to face off against the Demolition in the NWFA’s first Mother’s Day Classic.
In 2006, the Fusion achieved a regular season record of 7-1 and won the North Central Division Championship title. The Fusion went on to defeat the Philadelphia Phoenix 52-13 in the first round of the playoffs, only to suffer a heartbreaking 13-14 loss to the Oklahoma City Lightning in the second round.
In 2007, the Fusion decided to ditch its old purple and gold identity to adopt its current color scheme of orange and brown. The switch boosted the team to a regular season record of 6-2, followed by a 53-0 thumping of the Connecticut Crush in the first round of playoffs and a 12-7 victory over the Mass Mutiny in the second round. However, the Fusion’s playoff success was abruptly halted in the third round by its arch nemesis, the Pittsburgh Passion, who would go on to win the 2007 NFWA Championship.
In 2009, the Fusion joined the 62-team Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) in search of bigger challenges and better competition, and selected Byers Field in Parma to serve as its new home stadium.
The Fusion went 6-2 in 2010, earning another playoff berth and having nine players selected for the WFA All-American team.
In 2013, the Fusion achieved its first perfect regular season with a record of 8-0, and clenched the National Division 3 Title. The Fusion continued its winning streak into the playoffs by beating the West Michigan Mayhem in the first round. The Fusion suffered its first loss of the season in the second round against the Chicago Force, who would go on to win the 2013 WFA Championship.
In 2014, the Fusion finished the season ranked 3rd overall in the WFA! The team finished the regular season with a record of 6-2 and emerged victorious against the Indy Crash in the first round of playoffs, with a final score of 38-32.
In the second round, the Fusion traveled to Beantown to face the Boston Militia for the third time that season. History continued to repeat itself and the Fusion lost to the Militia, who would go on to win the 2014 WFA Championship.
In 2015, the Fusion finished the regular season 6-2, losing to Boston by only four points, and suffering a defeat at the hands of the D.C. Divas, who would take home the 2015 WFA Championship trophy. The Fusion lost to Chicago in the first round of playoffs, but finished the season with a 6th place ranking overall. Ten Fusion athletes earned All-American honors, with two players taking home awards for WFA Rookie of the Year and WFA Offensive Player of the Year.
Photo Credits: Gina Miller