Sunday, 10 May 2015

Valkyries build legacy in Saskatoon

Quarterback Stacey Boldt throws a TD strike for the Valkyries.
    It feels like it was love at first site for Saskatoon and the Valkyries women's football team.
    Football has always thrived in the province of Saskatchewan way more than it has in any other part of Canada. Saskatchewan is best known as Rider Nation due to its love of the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders. As a spinoff, every other level of football in the province has benefitted from strong support.
    When Saskatoon got a team in the then newly formed Western Women's Canadian Football League in 2011, one had to expect there was a good shot the club would be popular. It was still surprising to see how quickly the Valkyries found their niche and became cemented into the community.
    Women from all walks of life flocked to the club to play tackle football. The team includes a vast number of players, who participated in other sports. The team includes players who are students, teachers, nurses, business professionals, tradespeople and hold down numerous other positions in the working world.
    Jeff Yausie, who is a veteran assistant coach with the Saskatoon Hilltops of the Canadian Junior Football League, was brought in early on to be the Valkyries head coach. He added a number of assistants, who mostly had backgrounds of playing football for the Hilltops or the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, to provide steady guidance.
    With a coaching staff that could oversee a junior or a university program, the Valkyries took off and have won all four WWCFL titles that have been awarded to date. The fans came out early on in that first year, and they haven't gone away.
    Exposure was also aided thanks to the fact the WWCFL plays almost all its games during the months of May and June. The Saskatoon sports scene experiences a lull during that time period, which has allowed the Valkyries to capture some extra attention.
Valkyries LB Aly Bell (#25) tackles Wolfpack FB Jana Taylor.
    On Sunday, the Valkyries opened their 2015 campaign hosting the Winnipeg Wolfpack. After playing their home games for four seasons at Griffiths Stadium on the campus of the University of Saskatchewan, the Valkyries moved to the recently renovated Saskatoon Minor Football Field. A new massive clubhouse complex is also being built for the Saskatoon football community at the park that was formerly known has Gordie Howe Bowl.
    The Valkyries are used to playing in front of crowds of about 1,000 people, and a large gathering of supporters close to that number were present at SMF Field.
    The defending WWCFL champs entered the campaign without a couple of key players. Quarterback Candace Bloomquist, who led the team to their four league titles, retired after the 2014 championship win. Running back Julie David, who was the club's all-time leading rusher, is off exploring Europe and won't be with the Valkyries this season.
    Those departures raised some question marks, but those question marks went away early in the season opener. Returning after a one-year absence, tailback Julene Friesen showed she hadn't lost any of her blazing speed opening the scoring on a 46-yard romp.
    Stacey Boldt, who takes over as the Valkyries starting quarterback, hit veteran receiver Marci Kiselyk for 30-yard TD strike for a second major. Just over 40 second later, Valkyries fourth-year linebacker Denise Kolosky blocked a punt and Kiselyk recovered the ball in the Wolfpack end zone for another score.
    Friesen zipped home on a 62-yard TD run on a pitch out and Boldt ran another score in from 17 yards out to give the Valkyrie a 32-0 lead just eight minutes into the contest. The hosts romped to a 75-0 victory, which was also their 17th straight win at home.
Receiver Carly Dyck hauls in a Valkyries TD catch.
    The veterans weren't the only ones that turned heads. Gritty second year running back Sam Matheson had ran in three scores before halftime. Receiver Carly Dyck, who is in her first year with the team, contributed a couple of nice plays in the fourth quarter scoring on a 28-yard run and a 40-yard reception.
    The Valkyries are calling this their "drive for five" season, and you have to like their chances of accomplishing that goal. They will likely be strong for the foreseeable future.
    They host annual tackle football camps for girls and the team's staff and players are active in helping run girls flag football in the city. Some of those girls will likely play for the Valkyries one day.
    Women's tackle football is still in its beginning stages, but the Valkyries are already thriving with a rich legacy. It is a story that fits right into the football lore of Saskatchewan.

    If you have any comments about this blog, feel free to email them to To see more photos of the Valkyries regular season opener, check out Twitter @StanksSports.