Monday, 18 May 2015

Valkyries rally past Riot

Showdown at Mosaic shows potential of WWCFL

Julene Friesen speeds downfield for the Valkyries.
    It was a rare sight to see the Saskatoon Valkyries at the wrong end of the scoreboard.
    It also gave the four time defending Western Women's Canadian Football League champs a chance to show their resiliency.
    On Sunday at Mosaic Stadium, the host Regina Riot jumped ahead of the Valkyries 16-8. The Riot had a habit of giving their Bridge City Rivals tough contests, which included a 15-7 victory over the Valkyries on May 12, 2013. It wasn't out of the question Regina could pull out its second victory over Saskatoon in 13 tries.
    Like a squad that is used to winning championships, the Valkyries battled back. The Riot lead shrank to 16-14 by halftime. Saskatoon proceeded to jump ahead 21-16 with 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter, when first year starting quarterback Stacey Boldt hit tailback Julene Friesen on a 13 yard outlet pass for a major.
    Victory wasn't assured until Friesen ran in the game's final touchdown from eight yards out to give the visitors a 28-18 lead with 66 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Saskatoon came away with a 28-19 final after Regina concluded the scoring with a rouge coming off a missed field goal as time expired.
    Unlike a lot of the contests involving the Valkyries, Sunday's game with the Riot provided intrigue.
    Saskatoon is the model franchise in the WWCFL and has run away from opponents with numerous blowout victories. The lopsided results occur due to a combination of the fact the Valkyries are well run with a strong coaching staff, and the WWCFL is still in its formative years. Women's tackle football is still a relatively new sport experiencing growing pains.
    The Riot have run a strong program, and they could have easily come away with a victory Sunday had the outcome of two or three plays been changed. The battle between Saskatoon and Regina showed the potential of how interesting WWCFL games can be.
Aimee Kowalski slings a pass for the Riot.
    The Valkyries jumped ahead 8-0 thanks to the Riot conceding a safety in the first quarter and Boldt hitting veteran receiver Marci Kiselyk for a 34-yard pass and run TD strike early in the second quarter.
    Regina sputtered early offensively due to a number of dropped passes but proceeded to catch fire. Riot quarterback Aimee Kowalski hit receiver Claire Dore with a 20-yard scoring pass cutting the Saskatoon lead to 8-6. A two-point conversion attempt by Regina to tie the contest failed.
    After Valkyries receiver Tori Giles fumbled away a punt return, the Riot were in business again. The turnover resulted in a 22-yard field goal from Morgan Turner to put Regina ahead 9-8.
    With 1:58 remaining in the second quarter, Aimee Kowalski connected with her sister Alex Kowalski for a long 75-yard home run strike to put Regina up 16-8. At that point in the game, the Riot had all the momentum and were making the majority of the plays.
    The Valkyries tightened things up scoring just 45 seconds later, when Boldt hit Kiselyk from eight yards out to cut the gap to 16-14. A two point conversion attempt failed, but Saskatoon was successful in stopping Regina's momentum.
    After Boldt connected for her third touchdown pass of the game to Friesen to put the Valkyries up 21-16, the Riot didn't go away. Near the halfway point of the fourth quarter, Regina had a golden chance to go back in front, but Aimee Kowalski's end zone pass to open rookie receiver Rachelle Smith was dropped.
    The Riot proceeded to turn the ball over on downs, but the Valkyries had to concede a safety on the ensuing series shirking their edge to 21-18.
    Regina would be doomed from two more mistakes. While running downfield after a catch, Alex Kowalski fumbled the ball away near her own 35 after getting tackled by Valkyries defensive back Amber Buchholz and linebacker Beth Thomson. Thomson recovered the ball for the visitors.
Valkyries DB Carisa Polischuk, right, takes down Riot receiver Diane Nesbitt.
    It appeared Regina would hold Saskatoon to scoring just a field goal, but the Riot were penalized for contacting Valkyries kicker Rienna Rueve. The infraction gave the Saskatoon a first down, so the visitors took the field goal off the board by accepting the penalty.
    The Valkyries proceeded to run more time off the clock before Friesen ran in for the clinching major. Regina attempted a last play field goal in case the points were needed for a standings tiebreaker down the road, but settled for a single.
    With the win, the Valkyries improved to 2-0, while the Riot fell to 1-1. After a bye weekend, these two clubs meet again on Saturday, May 30 at 7 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    Regina needs to win that contest by 10 or more points to claim the season series. With that in mind, hopes are high that the next clash will be as compelling as Sunday's match was.

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