Saturday, 20 June 2015

Valkyries' drive for five hits next gear

Sam Matheson zips down the sideline for the Valkyries.
    The Saskatoon Valkyries are perfect in the playoffs, and they don't want that fact to change any time soon.
    Since the Western Women's Canadian Football League was formed in 2011, the Valkyries have won every league title that has been up for grabs. The goal for the 2015 campaign is to complete a drive for five season. The post-season begins for the four-time defending WWCFL champions on Sunday, when they host the Winnipeg Wolfpack at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field in a Prairie Conference semifinal match.
    Saskatoon has won 11 straight playoff games, and at some point in time, that run will come to an end. The chance to win five straight league championships is something that is mostly beyond the dreams of anyone that plays any sport.
    If the Valkyries pull out the league championship this year, it might end up being their most memorable championship run.
    For only the second time in their history, they did not finish first in the Prairie Conference. They finished second at 3-1 behind the 3-1 Regina Riot. The two teams split their two head-to-head regular season meetings, but the Riot held the standings tiebreaker outscoring the Valkyries 68-37 in their two meetings.
    The last encounter saw the Riot thump the Valkyries 49-9 in Saskatoon on May 30. Saskatoon has lots only two games in its history, and the 40-point setback was largest margin of defeat in those two losses. The Valkyries have a chance to show their resiliency in a way they never had before.
    The only other time the Valkyries lost came back on May 12, 2013 on the road against the Riot in Regina 15-7. Valkyries running back Julene Friesen thought that setback played a big role in making a push to win the league title in that campaign.
    "I know that to get better you need to have some tough games, and you need to have losses," said Friesen. "I think the other girls took it pretty hard, because the girls that have been playing for three years had never experienced a loss before.
    "I think that loss helped us definitely as a team that year."
Valkyries DL Lauren Bourdon (#90) wraps up a Wolfpack runner.
    The Wolfpack finished 2-2 in the regular season, with both of their victories coming over the 0-4 Manitoba Fearless.
    In the only meeting between the Valkyries and Wolfpack this season, Saskatoon came away with a 75-0 blowout victory. On paper, you would expect the Valkyries to come away with another easy win.
   The Riot face the Fearless in the other Prairie Conference semifinal in Regina on Sunday, and the Riot will be beyond huge favourites to take that contest. The Valkyries will be playing at home for the final time in the 2015 campaign, unless Regina finds some way to slip against the Fearless.
    Before one can think about what could happen next week, there is business to take care of this week. A long playoff push has to begin with a first step.

Kyle nears big milestone

    Saskatoon product Kaylyn Kyle is about to hit the century mark.
    The 26-year-old midfielder will officially make her 100th appearance for Canada's National Women's Soccer team the next time she steps on the pitch with that squad. Barring something unforeseen, that 100th match will be Canada's first round playoff game on Sunday against Switzerland in Vancouver at the Women's World Cup (5:30 p.m. Saskatchewan time, CTV).
    Kyle's games played total includes all her international "A" totals. To make it to 100 appearances with Canada's National Women's Soccer team is a huge accomplishment. There are a large number of talented women's players coming up through Canada's system, and Kyle's talent and hard work have allowed her to remain with the big club.
    Judging by media reports coming out of Vancouver, the match between Canada and Switzerland is closing in on a sellout at B.C. Place. Canada only scored twice to earn a win and two draws to finish first in Group A in the preliminary round. Hopefully, a goal gusher comes for Canada on Sunday to help make Kyle's 100th match memorable for good reasons for the host side.

Gaunt still gets rush from racing

    The racing scene in Saskatoon has a big following, and no one might be more respected than racing veteran Jim Gaunt.
    Gaunt has been racing as part of the Saskatoon Stock Car Racing Association since 1980 winning 13 class championships. The first came in 1984 and the last title win in 2011.
    I caught up with Gaunt for a feature article for the Saskatoon Express. I have received a lot of positive feedback about the story and it can be found here.

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