Regina Riot capture first-ever WWCFL championship with convincing triumph

After four years of suffering a loss to the eventual WWCFL champion Saskatoon Valkyries in the Prairie Conference championship game, the Regina Riot persevered and have arrived at the level that eluded them for so many seasons. A convincing triumph against the Edmonton Storm has provided the proud franchise with its first WWCFL championship in franchise history.

Gracing the gridiron at Investor’s Group Field in Winnipeg (which also hosted the eventual champion United States in preliminary round play at the FIFA Women’s World Cup), an historic chapter in Canadian women’s football took place. From the outset, the Regina Riot and the Edmonton Storm had never played each other before.

Photograph by: P.DUNN , CANADIAN SPORTS PHOTO NETWORK

Photograph by: P.DUNN , CANADIAN SPORTS PHOTO NETWORK

During the WWCFL’s preseason jamboree, the Riot had competed against the Calgary Rage. Considering that the Rage qualified for the Western Conference championship game, a rematch between the two seemed possible.

Subsequently, neither of these teams had won a championship before, marking a rare occurrence when both contestants have clashed for the chance to win a first title. Having been vanquished by the Valkyries in two previous title game matchups, the Storm were aiming for a better outcome with the Riot.

Instead, it was the Riot that rode a whirlwind of momentum. Quickly capitalizing on the chance to gain a significant lead against their Western Conference opponents, jumping out to a 14-0 advantage, Edmonton could not mount a comeback.

From offensive superstars such as Aimee Kowalski and Carmen Agar dominating through the air and on the ground, the lead grew to a 30-0 margin by halftime. Kowalski would not only connect with her sister Alex for a touchdown, she would also find backup quarterback Sami Bray in the end zone.

Agar would complete the game with a sterling 104 rushing performance. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that she only touched the ball 10 times as she led all players in rushing yardage in the 53-7 triumph.

Although the jubilation of the championships brings with it the all-too obligatory retirement (charter member Angie Douville decided to hang up her helmet), the presence of future stars such as Mira Trebilcock, a two-sport star in hockey and soccer, adds to the confidence of a bright future ahead.

Having spent so many seasons in the shadow of the Valkyries, the first dynasty in the history of the WWCFL, the Riot are poised to build on this unprecedented success. With All-World quarterback Aimee Kowalski not ready to retire yet, the chance to establish a new dynasty is highly likely.

#edmonton-storm, #regina-riot

Regina Riot hand Saskatoon Valkyries first-ever home loss in landmark win

For the first time in five seasons of Western Women’s Canadian Football, the Saskatoon Valkyries have suffered a loss on their home turf. Said loss came courtesy of their archrivals, the Regina Riot (who also handed them their first loss in league history in 2013). The win elevated the Riot into first place in the Prairie Conference.

Held at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Valkyries were hoping to set the tone early with a 29-yard touchdown run by Samantha Matheson. Despite the early 7-0 lead, the Valkyries would quickly fall behind.

A remarkable 270 rushing yard performance by Carmen Agar (plus two touchdowns) resulted in the most yards ever allowed by a Valkyries defense. By halftime, Agar had already burned the Valkyries defense for 170 yards, as the Riot offense assembled a convincing 28-7 lead. Aimee Kowalski, the Riot’s signal caller had a pair of touchdown tosses also.

Other players who contributed on offense in the aftermath of the 49-9 victory included Sami Bray and Amanda Hungle, who both scored touchdowns on one-yard scores. Carly Kentz would scamper into the end zone on a five-yard score. Defensively, several members of the Riot made key contributions. Artemis Kouropoulou had an interception, while Mallory Starkey and Katie Royal combined on a turnover. Registering a quarterback sack, Starkey would also force a fumble, recovered by Rogal.

The shocking 49-9 troucing was the highest margin of points for a Valkyries loss. As so many other clubs in the Prairie Conference can attest, usually, the Valkyries dominate on both sides of the ball, resulting in lopsided victories. One minor point of consolation for the Valkyries is that the last time they suffered a loss to the Riot, they avenged said loss in the postseason. As the 2015 edition of the Prairie Conference final shall likely take place between the two powerhouse franchises, a proud Valkyries franchise shall ensure that a lopsided loss will not occur twice in the same season.

#aimee-kowalski, #carmen-agar, #mallory-starkey, #regina-riot, #samantha-matheson, #saskatoon-valkyries

Regina Riot host archrivals in inaugural Teal Game for Cancer Research

Hosting their archrivals the Saskatoon Valkyries, the Regina Riot played with a strong sense of purpose. Of note, the club hosted their first-ever “Teal Game”, raising funds in support of the Ovarian Cancer Canada Regina Walk of Hope. Playing under the lights at Mosaic Centre, the contest finished in a 28-19 final for the Valkyries.

Riot head coach with teal ribbon logo on ball cap (Photo credit: Wanda Harron)

Riot head coach with teal ribbon logo on ball cap (Photo credit: Wanda Harron)

Elite signal caller Aimee Kowalski had built up strong momentum in the first half. Finding both Alex Kowalski and Claire Dore for touchdowns, her efforts were complemented by a field goal from Morgan Turner, as the Riot held a 16-14 halftime lead.

Making adjustments in the second half, the Valkyries retained their hold on first place in the Prairie Conference by mounting a comeback.

Despite the loss, there were some encouraging performances that will contribute to the Riot’s confidence in a May 30 rematch with the club. A blocked punt and a fumble recovery were confidence builders for the Riot, despite the victory.

Amanda and Courtney Tafelmeyer grace the field with proud group of volunteers (Photo credit: Wanda Harron)

Amanda and Courtney Tafelmeyer grace the field with proud group of volunteers (Photo credit: Wanda Harron)

In addition, numerous members of the Riot defense made some big plays. Katie Rogal, a veteran defensive lineman registered a sack in the contest while Mallory Starkey added an impressive tackle in the backfield. Rookie safety Mira Trebilcock is establishing herself as a star in the making with an interception on Valkyries quarterback Stacey Boldt.

The real victory was the money raised for a noble cause. As the Riot continue to extend their presence in the community, the joint initiative with the Regina Walk of Hope is testament to their role as sporting humanitarians.

After the game, sisters Amanda and Courtney Tafelmeyer brought some volunteers from the Regina Walk of Hope to the field for a photograph as a gesture of gratitude. Through efforts such as ticket sales, donations, merchandise and food sales, the Riot raised $1,507.

#amanda-tafelmeyer, #courtney-tafelmeyer, #mira-trebilcock, #regina-riot, #saskatoon-valkyries, #wwcfl

Historic win adds to Kessie Stefanyk’s strong legacy with the Lethbridge Steel

Earning a win in her WWCFL coaching debut, Kessie Stefanyk made history twice in one day. From the outset, Stefanyk became the first female head coach in the history of the league. Roaming the sidelines with the Lethbridge Steel, their narrow 7-6 win over the Calgary Rage secure Stefanyk the honor of being the first female head coach to win a WWCFL regular season game.

A former quarterback for the Steel, Stefanyk led the squad to multiple appearances in the WWCFL championship game. With Christina Wipf (returning to the squad after missing 2014 due to maternity leave) inheriting the starting quarterback’s position, the purple and silver are hoping that 2015 shall be the year where they claim the elusive championship.

Also acting as the Steel’s offensive co-ordinator, Stefanyk remains humble about breaking the gender barrier. While she would like to be seen as just a coach, the reality is that she is setting a standard for other women in football to emulate. As a side note, University of Regina Tyler Mantyak alum is joining the Steel as assistant head coach

Perhaps her biggest luxury this season is the amount of players on the squad. In years past, the Steel had some of the lowest number of roster players throughout the WWCFL. It was a situation that Stefanyk was very familiar with, as the Steel overcame many odds to capture the Western Conference championship year after year.

This season, 33 players comprise the season roster. Despite almost half that number consisting of rookies suiting up this season (roster turnover tends to be 50 percent), Stefanyk can depend on key veterans. Players such as Jessica St. Goddard and Donnelly Sellers, who pulls double duty as team President, will be counted upon to provide encouragement and support in what promises to be a landmark season for Stefanyk and the Steel.

#kessie-stefanyk, #lethbridge-steel, #wwcfl

Saskatoon Valkyries trounce opponents by 75-0 score during a special season opener

In the quest for five consecutive WWCFL championships, the Saskatoon Valkyries made a strong statement with an astounding 75-0 whitewash of the North Winnipeg Wolfpack, earning their league-record 17th consecutive win at home. In the first quarter alone, the squad accumulated six touchdowns, with the squad boasting a 53-0 lead at halftime.

The home opener also resulted in another unique aspect of history for the franchise. Sophomore running back Samantha Matheson was joined on the team by her mother Crystal, a linebacker participating in her first season with the club. Of note, this represents the first time in franchise history that a mother-daughter duo have played together.

Taking into account that the match occurred on Mother’s Day, it was a very treasured moment for both. Adding to the magic was the fact that Samantha scored three touchdowns before halftime. The topic of football between the two first came up over the winter, when Samantha was working in British Columbia. A very accomplished softball player, Crystal acquiesced to her daughter’s request, attending the Valkyrie’s training camp. One unforeseen element was that the two would have to possibly tackle each other in training camp.

Heading into the home opener, it was truly a family affair for the Matheson’s. With father Adam cheering on, he was joined by Sam’s sisters, Kendal and Makenna, along with brother Ethan. As a side note, Kendal and Makenna currently compete in rugby, a sport that Samantha excelled in before gracing the gridiron with the Valkyries.
Statistically, both mother and daughter enjoyed a fine day. Crystal logged two solo tackles along with an assisted one in her WWCFL debut. Samantha would finish the day with three rushing touchdowns, ranking second on the squad with a superlative 100-yard performance.

This season also marks a change of venue for the franchise as the previous four seasons saw the club dominate at Griffiths Stadium. Relocating to the Saskatoon Minor Football Field, it is part of a season of many transitions. In the aftermath of the 2014 WWCFL championship game, quarterback Candace Bloomquist announced her retirement, leaving a big hole in terms of leadership. Compounding this loss was the fact that Julie David, the all-time leading rusher in Valkyries history will not be suiting up in 2015.

Among the new faces for the Valkyries this season include Stacey Boldt, inheriting the starting quarterback position from Bloomquist, and wide receiver Carly Dyck. Having spent the last two seasons with the Lethbridge Steel (where she also spent time as a field goal kicker), Dyck is looking to capture her first-ever WWCFL title. Against the Wolfpack, Dyck made an impression scoring twice in the fourth quarter, on a 28-yard reception receiving and a 40-yard rushing touchdown. As a side note, Dyck and Ehjae Chan were among the Valkyries who attended the second annual Women’s World Football Games in Tampa, Florida.

Marci Kiselyk would make franchise history as the first player to receive a touchdown pass from Boldt. In addition, Kiselyk would also get a touchdown on special teams. With Denise Kolosky blocking a punt, Kiselyk recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. It was part of an offensive onslaught that saw the Valkyries hold a convincing 32-0 lead within the first eight minutes of the contest.

Returning to the Valkyries after not suiting up in 2014, Julene Friesen had a pair of remarkable touchdown runs, establishing herself as a key component for the running game. Logging the first touchdown of the game on an impressive run of 46 yards, she would run to daylight on a game-best 62-yard scoring run. In addition, she logged a receiving touchdown on a 55-yard pass, establishing herself as a double threat. An element which may prove crucial during the Valkyries’ “Drive for Five”.

References: Darren Steinke

#carly-dyck, #crystal-matheson, #julene-friesen, #marci-kiselyk, #samantha-matheson, #saskatoon-valkyries, #stacey-boldt

Saskatoon Valkyries steamroll the competition in dominant undefeated season

After a 2013 season that saw the Saskatoon Valkyries suffer its first-ever regular season loss to their eternal rivals, the Regina Riot, it would have been easy to believe that the first dynasty in Western Woemn’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL) history was in decline. Such speculation was quickly erased after an undefeated season in 2014 that saw the Valkyries dominate their opponents by a cumulative score of 286-28.

On the path towards a fourth consecutive title, the Valkyries were facing the Lethbridge Steel. Having won their third straight Western Conference postseason title, the Steel were hoping that they could continue their streak of upsetting another first-place team. Defeating the Edmonton Storm by a narrow 29-26 margin, the triumph provided the silver and purple with hope.

Having faced Saskatoon twice before in the league championship, the Steel represented the hopes of many female football fans in Alberta. With a team from Alberta having previously appeared in three consecutive championship games, there was hope that a title could finally be brought back to the province.

Such expectations would be unmet once again as Saskatoon made a statement in a 53-0 whitewash. Such a lopsided victory established the Valkyries as the most dominant dynasty in the history of Canadian female football. Running on all cylinders, the game opened with rookie Ehjae Chan returning a punt 63 yards, as Saskatoon built up an impressive 29-0 lead by halftime.

A long pick six by Gillian Allen in the fourth quarter resulted in a 68-yard interception return, putting the game out of reach for a dejected Steel squadron. Quarterback Candace Bloomquist would pass for over 340 yards while completing a remarkable 70 percent of her passes to earn Game MVP honors.

While the drive for five in a row is the next objective for the proud Valkyries, sadly, it shall be without Bloomquist lining up behind centre. In many ways, she was reminiscent of Bart Starr, who won five titles with the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League during the 1960s. Just like Starr, Bloomquist may not have been the biggest quarterback, nor did she have the strongest arm. Yet, her leadership skills were incomparable, providing a presence that stabilized the squad.

Bloomquist held many special qualities that make her the most accomplished quarterback in WWCFL history. Having made the decision to retire on her own terms, satisfied with her legacy (one that is worthy of entry in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame), the one notion that all fans can agree upon is that the WWCFL gridiron will not be the same without her presence.

For now, the joyous celebration of victory is still fresh among the franchise. Having established a standard that has provided a remarkable sense of pride to the residents of Saskatoon, it is also a benchmark that may never be matched again. A complete franchise, filled with remarkable depth and a desire to win, if there was ever an entire team that was worthy of recognition in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, this is truly such a team.

#candace-bloomquist, #saskatoon-valkyries

Rebuilding the focus for Foothills Outlawz as squad aims for return in 2015

As the Western Women’s Canadian Football League prepares for the 2014 campaign, its fourth in league history, the release of the upcoming schedule reflected a visceral decision on the part of the league. Sadly, the Foothills Outlawz shall not be scheduled to participate in any contests. Considering there were only nine players that committed for the upcoming season, league by-laws stated that the squad was obligated to have 24 members that were also registered with Football Alberta. With the effort required to find 15 new players for the season placed a significant time constraint on the franchise.

Okotoks Lady Outlawz  team photo from 2013 (Image obtained from Facebook)

Okotoks Lady Outlawz team photo from 2013 (Image obtained from Facebook)

Sherrie Toews, who has also volunteered in a management role, had the difficult task of addressing the state of the franchise via social media. Handling it with grace and remarkable dignity, Toews addressed the difficult reality that there is a shortage on the roster. The need to build for the future and do things right is tops on the agenda for the Outlawz.

“At the moment, we have a small group of women that want to play football. We do not, unfortunately, have a ready team, with a full roster of players, coaches and management that is ready and able to start practice in less than three weeks. It is unrealistic to think we can recruit min 14 girls in six weeks, plus the other bodies needed…

…I am hoping we can rejoin the roster and head into the 2015 season a strong, healthy team.”

Two generations meet on the football field: Tegan Donnelly and Patti Whitfield (Image obtained from Facebook)

Two generations meet on the football field: Tegan Donnelly and Patti Whitfield (Image obtained from Facebook)

One of the individuals that praised Toews efforts was Linda Craig. Dedicated to the franchise, her reply on social media is a harbinger of optimism, bringing with it the need to realize that this marks the beginning of another chapter.

Like many others that have had to cope with the disappointment, Craig’s reflection brings with it realization that the future can bring with it opportunity. It is that type of outlook that shall provide the franchise with a solid foundation of strong and dedicated women that believe.

“It takes a team to build a team and those that helped out, please know that this is not a failure at all, it is a reality check. With everyone pitching in, it can happen.

That is how all of the other teams were created, including the Rage, especially during its early years as the Rockies. They took a hiatus and came abck bigger and strong because of it and that is what the Outlawz can do, too! I believe in all of you and I know the Outlawz are not done, please keep believing!”

Although 2014 presents the franchise with an obstacle in its young history, there is still a feeling of optimism with the players, providing signs for a positive future. Many have turned to social media to express their sentiments.

One of the members of the offensive line in 2013, Tammy Holishcuk-Holunga understood the frustrations involved. As other franchises in the league had larger rosters, along with players that have had some experience, the Outlawz were in a difficult situation. Except for Roberta Gordica and Stacey Rogowski, the roster was literally comprised of novices and rookies.

“You simply cannot make a team without the number of players required and we learned that the hard way last year by having mature players having to play both sides of the ball meaning no rest breaks during the game.

When you mix athletes not in superb physical shape going up against experience and university-aged players, well it is really devastation in the end. I believe the efforts have been made to recruit those younger, physically capable players.”

Recognizing the club’s sponsors and thanking their fans as the Lady Outlawz reach out to their community in a local parade. (Image obtained from Facebook)

Recognizing the club’s sponsors and thanking their fans as the Lady Outlawz reach out to their community in a local parade. (Image obtained from Facebook)

Sherry Sandberg, one of the emotional leaders for the Outlawz also shared her sentiments on social media. Her outlook on 2015 and the realization that an absence from the league schedule does not diminish its status as a team displays a true dedication to build the team.

“Our hearts and passion are with the Foothills Outlawz; but realistically we could not enter the 2014 season with a partial team with hopes of recruiting 15 ready, willing, able ladies within six weeks. 2014 will be our year to solidify leadership, connect with our community, coordinate team training sessions…and build a strong roster of ladies to enter into 2015 as a more viable, stable and competitive team.”

While the short-term has already seen its setbacks, several moments from 2013 prove that the long-term has promise. There were many great moments for the Outlawz during their inaugural year. Allison Mouland established herself as more than a gamer, but a determined quarterback. Despite the disappointment of not being able to take snaps behind center this year, she approached it with the maturity that makes her a valued leader for the franchise,

“It is sad, but ultimately the right decision. I will miss playing, but it is only temporary. Although it is disappointing that we will not be competing this season, it is going to benefit us in the long run. This gives us the time to recruit, develop, and be ready to compete in 2015.”

Happier days as year-end awards are given in summer 2013 Back row: Drew Coonfer Nelson, Alicia Cook, Alexandria Farmer, Roberta Gordica (who also served as general manager), Jodie Ward and Sherry Uhersky Sandberg Front row: Linda Craig, Sherrie Ladanyi Toews, Natasha Cyr, Dannee-Lee Barr, Allison Mouland and Tegan Donnelly (Image obtained from Facebook)

Happier days as year-end awards are given in summer 2013
Back row: Drew Coonfer Nelson, Alicia Cook, Alexandria Farmer, Roberta Gordica (who also served as general manager), Jodie Ward and Sherry Uhersky Sandberg
Front row: Linda Craig, Sherrie Ladanyi Toews, Natasha Cyr, Dannee-Lee Barr, Allison Mouland and Tegan Donnelly (Image obtained from Facebook)

Georgia Moore, known affectionately as the Aussie Clipper, reflected another great moment for the Outlawz. In August 2013, she became the second WWCFL player selected in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League Draft, a landmark moment not just in franchise history but league history. Dannee-Lee Barr spoke at her daughter’s kindergarten class, inspiring a new generation to follow their dreams.

Rebuilding may serve as a defining moment for the franchise as they ensure those that become Outlawz will make their own sporting dreams come true. The Outlawz are truly part of a generation of amazing female pioneers in the sport. They have already touched the lives of many in their own community and the potential to build is great. Losses may possibly mount in the returning season, but the stoic yet wondrous women that choose to endure such losses are helping to build a solid foundation for the future that will culminate in admiration and respect.

#allison-mouland, #foothills-outlawz, #georgia-moore, #okotoks-lady-outlawz, #roberta-gordica, #sherrie-toews