Saturday, 22 June 2019

Valkyries are always fun to back

Saskatoon one win away from return to WWCFL final

The Valkyries celebrate a touchdown from Danielle Girolami (#10).
    The Saskatoon Valkyries ability to inspire is as alive as it ever was.
    The powerhouse women’s tackle football team is playing through its ninth season of existence as a member of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. On Sunday, the Valkyries will be trying to advance to the WWCFL championship game for a seventh time, when they host the Lethbridge Steel in a league semifinal contest at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    The winner will face the two-time defending champion Regina Riot in the WWCFL title game on June 29 at 4 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium in Regina. The Riot claimed the other WWCFL semifinal 30-8 in Edmonton on Saturday against the host Storm.
    The Storm finished the campaign with a 4-2 record including action in the regular season and playoffs, while the Riot improved to 3-3 including action in the regular season and post-season. Regina won two straight road playoff games to make the WWCFL final.
Alex Eyolfson can make plays on the run.
    The Valkyries have always captured the imaginations of their fans due to what seems like their endless their positivity. It makes you want to cheer for them.
    Their positivity transfers over to the football field as they have always played the game at a high level. They won the WWCFL title in four straight years from 2011 to 2014 and captured a fifth championship in 2016.
    They are having another memorable campaign in 2019 posting a 6-0 overall record including play in the pre-season, regular season and playoffs. The Steel enter Sunday’s clash with a 3-2 mark including play in the regular season and post-season.
    This season’s Valkyries have a great mix of veteran pros and energetic youngsters. There is a feeling on the team that everyone is important, and they all continuously strive to make each other better.
    At quarterback, the Valkyries are led by two youngsters who are already veterans at their positions playing in their fourth seasons in Alex Eyolfson and Reed Thorstad.
Reed Thorstad is a composed field general.
    Eyolfson is the WWCFL’s version of Doug Flutie. She can improvise, make plays on the fly and seemingly throw the football a mile.
    Thorstad is the pocket passer who makes reads and gets the football out quickly. With the way she sees the game, you can tell her father, Brian, coached the sport for large number of years.
    The starting offensive line includes right tackle Betsy Mawdsley, right guard Lauren Ferguson, centre Eden Rakochy, left guard Ashley Viklund and left tackle Alyssa Funk. Viklund and Ferguson are more the newcomers of the group playing in their second and third seasons respectively.
    Mawdsley, Funk and Rakochy are all in their fourth, fifth and sixth seasons respectively. They make everything on offence go.
    At running back, Sam Matheson returned from a year off returning to a star role in her fifth season with the team. She still runs with explosiveness between the tackles and is an elusive receiver out of the backfield.
    Sarah Wright has turned into a standout in her third season running the ball and rookie Natasha Englot has made plays when she has hit the field.
    At receiver, Kelsey Murphy is the steady veteran in her sixth season. Sisters Haley and Danielle Girolami, who are in their first and second years respectively, are quickly turning into big playmakers.
Kori Herner (#27) returns an interception for the Valkyries.
    Makenna Matheson is a speedster that can leave everyone in the dust.
    The defensive line contains some of the team’s greatest veteran pros in Jamie Lammerding, who has been a career member of the squad, along with Denise Kolosky and Kendra Wilson, who are both in their eight seasons with the team.
    They helped the Valkyries flourish in their early years and continue to be welcoming inspirations for the team in the current day. On top of everything, they can still make a tonne of plays.
    Rookie Danaye Holynski has stepped in to be a solid contributor on the defensive line, while Dayna Bear has been a steady contributor in her third year.
    At linebacker, the Valkyries have one of the best trios in the country in Beth Lalonde, who is a career member of the team, fourth-year veteran Emmarae Dale and third-year standout Devyn Peters.
Beth Thomson and the Valkyries defence play as tough as ever.
    In the secondary, eight-year veteran Rienna Rueve anchors everything at safety. Shaylyn De Jong and Ehjae Chan are veteran warriors in their seventh and sixth season respectively.
    Kori Herner is the playmaking newcomer joining the Valkyries after skating for five seasons in the U Sports ranks with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team.
    Career team member Tori Giles has been sidelined by injury, but she is still hanging around the squad offering support to her teammates.
    The Valkyries again have a standout coaching staff led by head coach Pat Barry.
    The players, coaches and staff have rallied around the memory of defensive position coach Justin Filteau, who passed away in a tragic plane crash on June 1. They have dedicated the rest of their season to Filteau, and the players have “JF” decals on their helmets.
Sam Matheson (#22) has scored lots of touchdowns returning from a year off.
    The Valkyries have made Sunday afternoons at SFM Field a great place to be. Their WWCFL semifinal contest provides one last chance to wish them well on their playoff run they hope will end in another championship.

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