Sunday, 30 April 2017

Valkyries hit ground running in pre-season win over Storm

WWCFL season will be a sprint in 2017

Denise Kolosky (#44) and her Valkyries teammates hit a Storm tailback.
    The Saskatoon Valkyries are looking like themselves out of the gate, which will be key in what will be a lightning fast 2017 season.
    On Saturday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Valkyries dumped the Edmonton Storm 56-6 in a pre-season tilt. The contest also served as a rematch from last year’s Western Women’s Canadian Football League title game, which the Valkyries won 81-6 in Lethbridge.
    Normally, the Western Women’s Canadian Football League schedule is spread a little over two months. With the International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship running from June 24 to 30 in Langley, B.C., there is a push to get the WWCFL campaign concluded a touch faster in comparison to past years.
    The Valkyries will go from their pre-season game right into a four-game regular season contests. The playoffs have been shortened as well.
Kelsey Murphy returns a punt for the Valkyries.
    The top two clubs in the four-team Prairie Conference that the Valkyries are part of will advance to a conference championship game to be held on June 3 or 4. In past years, all four teams in the Prairie Conference were automatically placed in playoffs.
    The winner of the conference title game will advance to the league final, which will be held June 10 in Saskatoon against the first place club from the three-team Western Conference. If the Valkyries return to the league final for sixth time in seven years, they will do so playing seven games on seven consecutive weekends including the pre-season, regular season and post-season.
    The 2017 schedule doesn’t contain a single bye week for the Valkyries.
    In noting how Saskatoon’s schedule plays out, it might have been even that more impressive the Valkyries utilized pretty much everyone on their 53-player active roster in Saturday’s romp of the Storm. Defensively, the Valkyries were impressive holding the Storm to 226 yards of offence.
    Most of Edmonton’s yards came from star running back Brenna Bouchard, who carried the ball 18 times for 140 yards and scored her team’s lone major in the first half.
Kendal Matheson (#25) zips downfield for the Valkyries.
    Valkyries veteran star linebacker Beth Thomson proved she can still be one of the WWCFL’s most dominant defensive players making four solo tackles, knocking down a pass and registering a sack off an edge blitz on Storm quarterback Aria McGowan. Linebacker Denise Kolosky made three solo tackles and recovered a fumble, while standout safety Shaylyn de Jong came up with an interception.
    Offensively, the Valkyries were dominant on the ground. They utilized seven different ball carriers who combined for 308 yards. They limited Julene Friesen, who is their all-purpose do everything tailback, to six carries, but she still piled up 99 yards and scored three touchdowns.
    Sophomore running back Kendal Matheson ran the ball seven times for 90 yards and scored two majors. Both her scoring runs were pretty impressive.
    On her first major late in the fourth quarter, Matheson ripped out of a number of tackle attempts by Storm players and sprinted home for a 50-yard touchdown run. Her second score was a three-yard short yardage carry, where she twisted and turned through the Storm defensive line to reach the end zone.
Beth Thomson (#2) sacks the quarterback for the Valkyries.
    Rookie running back Sarah Wright scored her first rushing major for the Valkyries running the ball four times for 49 yards.
    Only the passing game seemed to be a bit clunky for the Valkyries due to the fact they have a number of new receivers looking to build some chemistry with sophomore quarterback Alex Eyolfson and rookie signal caller Cori Thorstad. That part of the game traditionally seems to smooth itself out as the campaign moves long.
    Eyolfson did hit sophomore receiver Alyssa Wiebe for a touchdown toss in the first half. Veteran pass catcher Carly Dyck also showed more explosion and power in her route running than she had in past years. She had an impressive 28-yard catch and run touchdown, where she broke out of a couple of tackles, called back due to an illegal block penalty.
    In the kicking game, Dyck made all seven of her converts, hit field goals from 32 and 28 yards out and had a single from a missed field goal attempt from 39 yards out.
    The biggest hurdle the Valkyries will have to overcome offensively is the absence of star receiver Marci (Kiselyk) Halseth, who will miss the entire season after injuring her Achilles tendon leading up to the pre-season game with the Storm.
Carly Dyck nails a field goal for the Valkyries.
    The coaching staff has been shuffled from last season. Pat Berry moved from defensive coordinator to head coach, while former head coach Jeff Yausie shuffled into the role of defensive coordinator.
    Jordan Walls, who was the quarterbacks coach last season, assumed the role of offensive coordinator from Chad Palmer, who has departed from the team. Walls is also the big favourite to take over the role as starting quarterback for the defending Canadian Junior Football League Saskatoon Hilltops, when their campaign starts in August.
    Chris Hengen-Braun returns as the Valkyries special teams and offensive line coach.
    The Valkyries quest to repeat as WWCFL’s champs begins in earnest this coming Sunday, May 7, when they host the Winnipeg Wolfpack at 1 p.m. at SMF Field. They host their archrivals the Regina Riot on Saturday, May 13 at 7 p.m. at SMF Field. The two teams face each in Regina on May 21.
    Saskatoon closes its regular season schedule on May 28, when they travel to Winnipeg to take on the Manitoba Fearless.
    If the Valkyries progress like they have in past seasons, it would be no surprise to see them playing in the WWCFL title game on home turf on June 10.

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