An arts student with an eye for fashion, Melissa Bernasconi knows a certain look can bring beauty and style.
But looks can be deceiving, especially when you strap on a helmet, don shoulder pads, apply eye black and carry an attitude.
The Enumclaw woman – who studies fashion marketing at The Art Institute of Seattle – moonlights as a gritty second-year running back and safety for the Lingerie Football League’s Kent-based Seattle Mist.
Tackle football is rugged business, but something the 23-year-old Bernasconi embraces. For Bernasconi, it’s a blend of action, impact and grace – a sometimes savage game in which art is put in motion.
“I love it. It’s insane,” said Bernasconi, an Enumclaw High graduate who played fastpitch softball on scholarship at Green River Community College. “When you get on the field, it is all emotion, adrenaline. It happens so fast and it’s so much fun. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
The Mist are back, proclaiming to be even better as they prepare for a four-game regular-season slate that opens in April.
The team assembled for an impromptu media gathering at the ShoWare Center last Friday, a precursor to the Mist’s preseason matchup – the inaugural Pacific Cup – against the B.C. Angels, the recently crowned champions of the maiden season of lingerie football north of the border.
Kickoff for the “border war” is 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15 at the ShoWare.
The retooled Mist includes two players – Christine Moore and Jessica Hopkins – who recently played for the Angels in LFL Canada.
Moore, a Seattle fitness trainer who plays linebacker and tight end, is looking forward to facing her former teammates, but holds no animosity toward B.C.
Moore says she is content, belonging to a deeper, stronger, faster team capable of running the table.
“This team is really close, and we’ve put in a lot of work,” she said. “We’re all on the same page.”
The Mist, an original league franchise that has yet to reach the coveted playoffs, has high expectations.
“We’re going to win it all. That’s our expectation every year,” said fourth-year coach Chris Michaelson. “We’re so deep. They’ve been in the system now for four years … so most of them have been grasping the concepts a lot better now.”
The LFL has improved as a product in four years, Michaelson observed, in terms of the caliber and the number of athletes. Coaching throughout the league also has improved, he said.
Playing mistake free is the key to winning a 32-minute game.
“If you make a mistake, it’s hard to recover,” the coach said.
Laurel Creel, of Wasilla, Alaska, returns at quarterback for the Mist. She threw for 294 yards and seven touchdowns last season. One of her main targets is Hopkins, of Ferndale, the team captain who caught 12 passes for five TDs last season.
Shea Norton, of Bonney Lake, returns for her third season at tight end and defensive end. The Sumner High graduate battled through a torn quadricep last season, but is back in top shape and eager to get started.
“Everyone is healthy,” she said. “We have five phenomenal rookies, and a class of 12 returning.”
Bernasconi says it’s the best Mist team yet.
“We’re a close family. Everything is upbeat and positive.”
About the Lingerie Football League
The league began in 2009, and in 2013 features 12 teams from Seattle, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Omaha and Philadelphia competing for a chance to play in the Aug. 31 Lingerie Bowl X. The season kicks off March 30.
The league features scantily clad women playing seven-on-seven tackle football on a 50-yard field. Each offense features a quarterback, center, two running backs and three receivers. There is no punting or field goals. Teams must throw at least two passes every four downs.
Players, who are not paid, wear helmets with clear face shields, shoulder pads, sports bras, tight shorts, elbow and knee pads.
The Kent-based Seattle Mist plays two home games at the ShoWare Center and two road games during the 2013 season. Seattle also plays an exhibition game Saturday, Dec. 15 also at the ShoWare. The league earlier this year shifted its previous fall-winter schedule played from 2009-2011 to a spring-summer schedule in 2013.
• Saturday, Dec. 15, Pacific Cup exhibition, B.C. Angels at Seattle Mist, 8 p.m.
• Saturday, April 6, Green Bay Chill at Seattle Mist, 8 p.m.
• Saturday, May 4, Seattle Mist at LA Temptation, 8 p.m.
• Saturday, July 6, Minnesota Valkryie at Seattle Mist, 8 p.m.
• Saturday, July 20, Seattle Mist at Las Vegas Sin, 8 p.m.
Tickets: www.showarecenter.com, 253-856-6999, $15-$85
Broadcast info – aired in HD at LFLUS.com