Monday, 27 June 2016

Valkyries set high standard

WWCFL champs show how great women’s football can be

Veteran receiver Marci Kiselyk hauls in a pass for the Valkyries.
    The hot topic in Saskatoon sports circles on Monday revolved around a final score of 81-6.
    That of course was the result of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League championship game on Saturday in Lethbridge. The Saskatoon Valkyries were the victors claiming their fifth WWCFL title in six years. They smashed the Edmonton Storm harder than a Ray Lewis blindside hit on a quarterback.
    When locals in Saskatoon heard the score that was repeated often on various radio stations Monday, you almost immediately heard, “Wow, our girls kicked their asses.”
    During their six seasons of existence, the Valkyries have won numerous blowout games. Saturday’s effort set a team record for points scored in a game and equaled the team mark for largest margin of victory at 75 points.
Alyssa Wiebe (#13) became a dangerous target as a Valkyries receiver.
    Saskatoon’s previous record for points in a game came back on June 12, 2011 in a 78-6 thrashing of the Winnipeg Wolfpack. The last time the Valkyries won by a 75-point spread came on May 10, 2015 in a 75-0 bombing of the Wolfpack.
    Against the Storm on Saturday, the Valkyries performed with great precision. While the neutral site encounter only attracted about 300 onlookers, news of what took place spread like a wildfire.
    Saskatoon played with an efficiency and dominance that would likely make New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick blush. During the romp, the Valkyries, who finished with a 7-1 overall record, substituted frequently through their 55-player roster, and there wasn’t a drop in the level of play between starters and backups. Everyone played great on the University of Lethbridge Community Stadium turf.
    The Valkyries, who have a huge following in Saskatoon, are also benefiting from the popular girls flag football league that exists in their home centre. Besides veteran receiver Carly Dyck, the Valkyries roster contained 32 players in their first or second year with the team including 22 rookies. All the newcomers arrived with a high skill set that transferred over to the full tackle game.
Betsy Mawdsley created chaos as a Valkyries rush end.
    Rookie Alex Eyolfson and sophomore Reed Thorstad split the duties at quarterback for much of the season, and both displayed great form in throwing to a group of talented receivers.
    Others like rookie receiver Alyssa Wiebe arrived with a decorated resume of accomplishments in other sports. In Wiebe’s case, she arrived as a former star hockey player most notably with the University of North Dakota, and she picked up the game fast thanks to her natural athletic talent and the guidance of veteran pass catchers like Dyck, Marci Kiselyk and Stacey Boldt.
    On defence, rookie newcomers like defensive end Betsy Mawdsley and linebacker Emmarae Dale showed that they were naturals.
    All these newcomers connected extremely well with a strong core of veterans. Original Valkyries Beth Thomson, Tori Giles, Jaime Lammerding, Lori Smith and Kiselyk all seem to be finding new peaks in their respective games.
    Kiselyk started the year sidelined with a nagging injury, and when she returned, she looked almost as fluid as NFL great Jerry Rice. Thomson is terminator at linebacker and Lammerding and Smith love to create havoc in the middle of the defensive line.
Tailback Julene Friesen had a stellar season for the Valkyries.
    Giles spent her first five years with the Valkyries playing receiver, but when she switched to defensive halfback this season, she looked like she born to play that spot. When teams ran the ball, Giles quickly drew a read on what was going on and often sliced into the backfield to make a tackle for a loss.
    Fifth year linebacker Denise Kolosky and fourth year safety Shaylyn De Jong were lights out playing at an all-world level.
    Arguably, the Valkyries MVP this season was third year running back Julene Friesen. Friesen was the Valkyrie version of former NFL star Marshall Faulk becoming the tailback that could do everything from running hard inside and outside to making big plays in the passing game as a receiver.
    The Valkyries success also has to be attributed to the fact that they put in the work. Pretty much all the players train year round, and the team starts practising together three months before the season starts.
    The only other squad that likely trains that hard in the WWCFL is the Regina Riot, who were the only club to beat the Valkyries this season.
    Saskatoon is also guided by an elite coaching staff under the guidance of head coach Jeff Yausie. When Yausie hasn’t been available due to commitments with Football Saskatchewan and Football Canada, the rest of the staff steps up. Special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Chris Hengen-Braun really shines in these moments with his big upbeat enthusiasm.
Jaime Lammerding (#21) hoists the WWCFL title trophy for the Valkyries.
    Former Valkyries player Beth Thompson has become a key part of the coaching staff as a defensive line coach. As years go on, you can expect more former players will become coaches.
    In Saturday’s impressive display, the Valkyries showed how good women’s football can be. They are the example that all other clubs in the WWCFL can aspire to be.
    If even three or four other clubs from the eight-club circuit can get to the level the Valkyries are at, it would be a very cool thing to see.

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