Thursday, 23 June 2016

Valkyries' Dyck pumped for homecoming in WWCFL final

Receiver returns to Lethbridge and fondly recalls football roots

Valkyries receiver Carly Dyck (#4) returns kick against the Edmonton Storm.
    When the Saskatoon Valkyries started celebrating their Prairie Conference title win, receiver Carly Dyck began thinking about going home.
    With a 29-14 victory over the visiting Regina Riot last Sunday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Valkyries advanced to the Western Women’s Canadian Football League title game for the fifth time in six years. 
    This year’s WWCFL title game is set to be held on Saturday in Lethbridge, which happens to be Dyck’s hometown. The Valkyries (6-1 overall) will face the Edmonton Storm (6-1 overall), who are making their second straight WWCFL final appearance, in a match that starts at 1 p.m. Lethbridge time at the University of Lethbridge.
    Before joining the Valkyries, Dyck began her football career playing for her hometown Lethbridge Steel from 2012 to 2014 in the WWCFL’s Western Conference. It was during that time she developed a love for the game.
    The Steel advanced to the WWCFL in all three seasons Dyck was a member of the team, and the Steel fell in every appearance to the Valkyries. Saskatoon claimed the first four straight WWCFL championships from 2011 to 2014 before the Riot won the league title last year.
Carly Dyck (#4) boots a field goal for the Valkyries.
    “I was always hopeful with Lethbridge,” said Dyck. “I always thought that we could do it.
    “I want to say I am even more hopeful now, because I know that we can do it. It feels nice playing in front of my family again and my friends and people who haven’t been able to see me play the last two years.”
    The closest the Steel came to winning the WWCFL title was back in 2013, when the Valkyries pulled out a 27-13 decision. Saskatoon took the 2012 and 2014 title clashes by respective 64-21 and 53-0 blowout scores.
    While the Steel weren’t able to claim a WWCFL title, Dyck didn’t see herself leaving the team. Opportunities away from the game steered her in that direction.
    After her first season with the Steel, Dyck started attending school in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan. For two years, she lived a double life, where she spent nine months in Saskatoon focusing on her studies and three months living in Lethbridge focusing on football.
    “I’d be there for two practices before the first game, and they would throw me into the game after being at home for only a week,” said Dyck. “My coaches would be sending me playlists, so that I could study.
Carly Dyck tears up field for the Valkyries.
    “I’d be in school, and I’d be studying for my final exams. My study break would be studying for football.”
    During her lengthy stays in Saskatoon, Dyck started to become more rooted in that centre. She started meeting members of the Valkyries and began playing in the city’s adult flag football league. As the friendships developed, Dyck decided it was time she made Saskatoon her year round home.
    She got her release from the Steel and proceeded to join the Valkyries in 2015. Dyck discovered a different football world during her two seasons in Saskatoon.
    “Playing in Alberta, we thought we were a really great football team, and we were,” said Dyck. “Just the caliber of football here that we have in Saskatchewan is so much beyond what we could even have imagined from the program that we had in Lethbridge.
    “You could tell after being here just the organization of our program, all the fundraising that we do, the training staff that we have (and) the coaches, everything here is just so much higher so much better than what I had known in Lethbridge.
    “Coming and seeing the depth we have on our team it is really not a surprise that we lost to Saskatoon all three years that I played for Lethbridge. We’d come to the championship game with 20 players, and that is not enough for a football team.”
    With the Steel, Dyck played offence, defence and special teams. Having grown up playing soccer, Dyck handled the Steel’s kicking duties.
Carly Dyck catches a deep pass for the Valkyries.
    With the Valkyries, Dyck mainly focuses on her role among a strong group of receivers that includes Marci Kiselyk, Stacey Boldt, Kelsey Murphy and Alyssa Wiebe. On special teams, Dyck is entrusted with place kicking duties.
    “I think the biggest change for me here now is feeling rested,” said Dyck. “When I go in on offence, I’ve had water. I’ve had a break. I’ve had a mental break to focus on what I am going to do next.”
    Dyck still has a lot of good memories from her time with the Steel. She enjoyed playing for the team’s then head coach Jamie Fisher, who rejoined the Steel this season as a defensive coordinator after one campaign off.
    When Dyck went to her first meeting with the Steel, she wasn’t sure if she was going to play at all.
    “I showed up at the meeting, and everybody there was tattoos and piercings and crazy hair,” said Dyck. “I thought I am not going to fit in here at all.
    “Jamie Fisher, the head coach, came up to me, and he asked me if I played any sports. I knew nothing about football. He was like, ‘If you’re an athlete, that is all we need.’
    “He made me feel really at home there.”
Carly Dyck (#4) celebrates a TD with Marci Kiselyk.
    Now Dyck sees Saskatoon as her home, and she expects to keep playing football for the foreseeable future. Besides playing for the Valkyries, she will be part of Saskatchewan’s provincial team that participates in Football Canada’s inaugural senior women’s national championship tournament, which runs July 28-31 in Regina.
    Still, there were some perks Dyck enjoyed while playing in Lethbridge that she hopes she will get to enjoy again.
    “The Lethbridge wind is what made me feel like I was an amazing kicker,” said Dyck with a chuckle. “Now I play here, and the wind is not as strong, so my kicks don’t go quite as far. It is OK.”

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