Giles helps Saskatoon return to WWCFL Prairie final
|Tori Giles returns an interception for the Valkyries.|
Tori Giles’ love for football brought her to the Saskatoon Valkryies and winning provided extra motivation to stay in the game.
The 22-year-old defensive back and kick returner is one of six original Valkyries that has suited up for every season of the club’s existence dating back to its inception in 2011. Over that time span, the Valkyries claimed four straight Western Women’s Canadian Football League championships from 2011 to 2014.
Saskatoon’s bid for a fifth straight championship came to an end last season after a heartbreaking 31-29 loss in the WWCFL’s Prairie Conference final to the Regina Riot.
Success kept Giles, whose nickname is “Baby T-Rex,” coming back for more.
“It probably had something to do with me being here for six years,” said Giles. “If we were getting our butts whooped every year, I don’t know if it would be the same story.
“It is just a great team to play with, and it is a lot of fun.”
The wins also just keep coming. On Sunday, the Valkyries thumped the Manitoba Fearless 42-2 in a WWCFL Prairie Conference semifinal playoff match at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. With that win, the Valkyries advance to the WWCFL Prairie Conference final to play the defending WWCFL champion Riot for a sixth straight year.
Regina claimed the other WWCFL Prairie Conference semifinal at Mosaic Stadium on Sunday thanks to a 59-7 drubbing of the Winnipeg Wolfpack.
|Tori Giles hits traffic on a Valkyries punt return.|
In the Valkyries win over the Fearless, Giles had a 21-yard interception return and she also cut into the Manitoba backfield to make a nice tackle for a loss. While Saskatoon frequently substituted players in the romp over the Fearless, Giles’ comfort level on defence was apparent.
She was a receiver on offence during her first five seasons with the Valkyries but has found her calling on the other side of the ball.
“It is definitely where I was supposed to be,” said Giles. “It is coming a lot easier than it has in the past for sure.
“It is a lot different. It is nice, because you don’t have to think as much. It is just you watch and you react.”
Growing up in Saskatoon, Giles played a lot of touch and flag football, but at age 15, she thought her options in the sport were drying up.
During a visit to Edmonton, Giles heard about the formation of the WWCFL’s Storm and hoped a team would start up in Saskatoon. After hearing about the creation of the Valkyries, Giles found an email address for team general manager Michelle Duchene online. After contacting Duchene, Giles joined the Valkyries and the rest is history.
With 27 new players joining the Valkyries this season mainly coming up through Saskatoon’s girls’ flag program, Giles said she definitely doesn’t see herself as one of the youngsters.
“I definitely feel like one of the old vets,” said Giles. “My body feels like it too.”
|Tori Giles gets set in the Valkyries secondary.|
In Sunday’s clash with the Fearless, the Valkyries jumped out to 28-0 lead just five minutes and 34 seconds into the contest. After pausing for a moment of silence to remember hockey icon and local product Gordie Howe with nine minutes to play in the first quarter, the Valkyries added another major to exit the frame with a 35-0 lead.
Running back Julene Friesen carried the ball five times for 203 yards and scored five touchdowns. Her longest run was from 70 yards out.
Receiver Alyssa Wiebe hauled in 36-yard pass from quarterback Alex Eyolfson to account for Saskatoon’s other major score.
The Fearless, who finish with a 1-4 overall record, picked up their points on two missed field goal singles from kicker Sara Milani.
The Valkyries and Riot enter the Prairie final posting identical 5-1 overall records including play from pre-season, regular season and post-season. The two clubs split their two head-to-head regular season meetings, but the Valkyries finished first in the Prairie Conference outscoring the Riot 73-48 in their two encounters.
The Prairie final is set for 1 p.m. this coming Sunday at SMF Field.
Giles said clashes with the Riot are always intense.
|Julene Friesen runs in one of her five touchdowns for the Valkyries.|
“They are definitely the hardest game of the year by far,” said Giles. “They are the most important ones as well.
“We’re going to have to grind out this week and get prepared for it and really get after it.”
As for her future in football after this season, Giles said she has joked with a couple of other six year players about playing for a decade. Saskatoon’s other six-year players include Beth Thomson, Marci Kiselyk, Jaime Lammerding, Julie David and Lori Smith.
Giles admitted that decision goes on a year-by-year basis.
“It is kind of whatever life hands you,” said Giles. “I will play for as long as I can.”
Watch for Reynoldson to shine as U of R’s athletics boss
The University of Regina athletics program might have found a long-term leader in Tanya (Hutcheon) Reynoldson, who is an alumna of the Cougars women’s hockey program.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Reynoldson would become the new interim director of athletics for the U of R effective July 1. She takes over from Curtis Atkinson, whose family is moving to Kamloops, B.C., at the end of June. Atkinson became the U of R’s interim director of athletics in January of 2015 after Dick White retired after a very long run as director of athletics.
Reynoldson has been the U of R’s athletic coordinator for over the past 10 years, where the 36-year-old oversaw sponsorship, marketing and event management operations. The news of her new role has been warmly received by the alumnus and the alumnae of the U of R’s athletic teams, especially from those that were athletes during Reynoldson’s playing years from 1998 to 2003.
The Regina product is an original member of the Cougars women’s hockey team joining the squad for its first season in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport ranks in the 1998-99 campaign. She piled up 19 goals and 34 assists playing right wing in 60 regular season games over five seasons.
Reynoldson had a couple of memorable moments helping the Cougars sweep the best-of-three Canada West championship series in 2001 against the University of Alberta Pandas, who were the defending CIS champions at the time. The series sweep at the ancient Exhibition Stadium in Regina is still the Cougars only Canada West title victory.
In Game 1, Reynoldson set up linemate Erin Balfour’s overtime winner with a beautiful centring pass in a 2-1 decision. In Game 2, Reynoldson potted the Cougars first tally in a three-goal surge that produced a 3-0 lead and eventually a 3-1 win.
The Cougars would reach the CIS championship game riding a 15-game winning streak before falling 4-3 to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. The Blues took a 3-0 lead in that contest before the Cougars rallied to force a 3-3 tie.
After the Blues went ahead 4-3, Reynoldson had a chance to make a play offensively to force a tie score, but was denied when a Blues player held her stick.
Known for her playmaking abilities on the ice, Reynoldson, who was an academic all-Canadian in her final season, was a natural leader off the ice and was one of the most popular persons among all U of R athletes. She had an uplifting and positive spirit that drew others to her.
As soon as she stepped into a room flashing her bright smile, the atmosphere immediately became better. When you were around Reynoldson, it seemed impossible to feel negative about anything.
She married her long-time boyfriend from the Cougars men’s hockey team in J.P., and they have two young and adorable children in Kennedy and Royce.
As the U of R’s interim director of athletics, Reynoldson will experience a learning curve, but she will likely get used to her new role fast. She always succeeded at everything she has done with flying colours, and one has to believe this will be no different.
In the past, U of R had a history of success in hiring young coaches to guide their athletic teams with the hopes of having a long term bench boss. It would be cool to see that formula work in Reynoldson’s case.
Reynoldson will undoubtedly make the commitment to become the U of R’s permanent director of athletics. During her journey with her new role, she will have a lot of people rallying around her to support her.
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