Friday, 3 July 2015

Valkyries in the news

Riot vanquish the Valkyries
By Greg Harder for Leader-Post, June 29, 2015

The Western Women's Canadian Football League will have a new champion in 2015, courtesy of the Regina Riot.

Regina made history on Sunday with a 31-29 win over the Saskatoon Valkyries in the Prairie Conference final at Mosaic Stadium, dashing Saskatoon's hopes for a fifth consecutive league championship.

It was also the fifth year in a row that Saskatoon and Regina met in the conference final. The Valkyries prevailed in the first four, going on to win every league title since the WWCFL was launched in 2011.

That streak ended Sunday when the Riot earned a berth in the championship game against the Edmonton Storm (Saturday at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg).

Regina Riot receiver Amanda Hungle is pursued by Saskatoon
Valkyries defensive back Amber Buchholz.
Photograph By: Michael Bell, Leader-Post
"It's an amazing opportunity," said Riot receiver Amanda Hungle, who hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass. "Our goal has always been the championship. We have one more rung in the ladder, one more step, so we'll just start preparing for that."

Although the Valkyries entered Sunday's game as four-time defending champions, Regina had momentum on its side thanks to a 49-9 victory in Saskatoon on May 30. It was only the second loss in Valkyries' history, the other coming at the hands of the Riot in 2013.

However, neither of those defeats hurt quite like Sunday's playoff elimination. Saskatoon fought back from a 22-7 fourth-quarter deficit, taking its first lead (29-28) with 1:26 on the clock thanks to Samantha Matheson's 25-yard TD run.

After the ensuing kickoff, Regina scrimmaged from its own 44-yard line and marched down the field, setting up a potential game-winning field goal by Morgan Turner. Her 13-yard attempt split the uprights, propelling the Riot to victory.

"It sucks to end the year that way," said Valkyries quarterback Stacey Boldt. "Our team has huge heart. We battled. We haven't really been down in our entire existence in the league. To come back down by that much was awesome to see."

Matheson rushed 14 times for 159 yards and four majors, almost single-handedly leading the Valkyries' comeback.

But the Riot didn't panic.

"Our coaches have been fantastic this year," noted Hungle. "We've been prepared since the beginning of the season. When it came down to a situation like this, we knew exactly what to do.

"We wouldn't have it any other way, a nice close battle and a really good strong team win."

The Riot needed every point it could scrape together, including three field goals, four safeties and two majors (by Hungle and Sami Bray). Quarterback Aimee Kowalski led the charge, completing 19 of 30 passes for 204 yards and rushing 11 times for a team-high 84 yards.

Turner added the finishing touch with some lastsecond heroics.

"I've never felt anything as exciting as this," said Turner, who admitted her heart was ready to pop out of her chest before the game-winning kick. "That was a pretty intense feeling. My team has been helping me, heckling me at every practice for situations like that. As I was running on, they were telling me, 'This is what it comes down to, this is why we did all of that to you in practice every week.'

"I guess it worked."

gharder@leaderpost.com