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Somerset graduate ready for some lingerie football

Berning (far left), a Somerset High School graduate of 2006, poses with some of her Minnesota Valkyrie teammates at a promotional event earlier this year. This is the first year the Valkyries are playing in the Lingerie Football League.1 / 3
The Minnesota Valkyries in their white "away" uniforms before playing the Green Bay Chill on Aug. 26, 2011, which they won 28-25.2 / 3
The Minnesota Valkyrie's home uniform consists of a halter bikini, "booty" shorts, leg garter, small neck ruffle, hockey helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and shoulder pads. Roxy (Martin) Berning said that she's had her hand broken while playing the full-contact sport, along with numerous bruises.3 / 3

Roxy (Martin) Berning has never considered herself a "girly girl."

"I was known for my aggressive behavior," said Berning, a 2006 Somerset High School graduate.

It is that aggressiveness that makes her fit right in with her teammates on the Minnesota Valkyries, a recent expansion team in the Lingerie Football League (LFL).

The LFL has been in existence for three years; Minnesota's team is the 11th franchise in the league. Although they have already played and won 28-25 against the Green Bay Chill on Aug. 26, the Minnesota Valkyrie's home opener is on Friday, Oct. 14, at Target Center.

Berning, #16, said that she has already had lots of questions about the league.

"We get that all the time," said Berning. "People judge us because of the word 'lingerie.' It throws people off."

She said that during open tryouts in April at the Vadnais Sports Center, some people showed up who had no idea of what is involved in a full-contact sport.

"We had some models show up; they thought it was a joke and didn't take football seriously. They didn't last long," she said.

Thirty-five women were selected from the tryouts, and of those only 25 advanced to the training camp in June. Ultimately, only 20 were selected for the team.

Berning said that her husband suggested she try out for the team.

She has been an athlete for most of her life, starting out as a cheerleader during elementary school before moving to Somerset from Chicago with her parents, younger brother Tony (SHS graduate 2008) and youngest sister Rachel.

"From the time I picked up a basketball, I liked being part of a team," she said.

Indeed, she played basketball throughout high school, and added softball, track and volleyball to her repertoire along the way. She even played intermurals during her college years at St. Cloud State University where she earned a bachelor's degree in recreation and sport management.

She and her family are big Chicago Bears football fans. She said that her brother, Tony, played football in high school and she always enjoyed watching the games, but never thought she would have the opportunity to play it herself.

It is apparent she is passionate about the sport. The Valkyries practice four to five times a week, sometimes at the Vadnais Sports Center, an outdoor hockey rink in Richfield, and any other place they can arrange.

Berning said it's difficult to find practice space because of how often they get together.

The LFL plays on a football field 50-by-30 yards and have seven members on the field at one time.

"It's more like arena football, but we still do full contact," said Berning. "I've had my hand broken for three weeks now, but I'll be ready to play in the opener."

When they are not practicing, they are working out just like other football athletes or doing promotional events for their games.

Through it all, the players do not get paid - they are volunteering their time to be on the team.

"We have women on the team from 19-36 years old," said Berning. "I think I'm the only married one, but there are divorcees, single moms, some just out of school. Almost every one of us has a full-time job."

Berning herself works full-time as the resident services coordinator for Opportunity Neighborhood in New Brighton, Minn.

As for the uniforms, she conceded that they are more revealing than the skin-tight uniforms the male football players wear, and the padding is not as bulky. The uniform is similar to a swimsuit: bikini top and "booty" shorts, both are trimmed with lace. They also wear lacy garters and neck collars. The only protective pieces of equipment they have are knee pads, elbow pads, small shoulder pads (with their numbers on them) and a hockey helmet.

"We do have some wardrobe malfunctions during the games," she admitted. "But once you see a girl hitting the crap out of another on the field, people usually look past the skimpy attire and realize that we are serious about football."

Berning said that despite the name, uniform and marketing, what it all comes down to is playing football with a good team.

"When I'm asked how I can play in this league, I usually answer them back with a question: If you love football and had the opportunity to play in your underwear on television, would you?

"Almost every time, the answer is yes."