Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Valkyries in the news

Hockey star catching on as receiver for Valkyries
By Don Rice, Saskatoon StarPhoenix May 23, 2016
Although she had never played football in her life until this season, Saskatoon hockey star Alyssa Wiebe has proved quite the catch for the Saskatoon Valkyries.

“I didn’t think she was a rookie,” said fellow first-year quarterback Alex Eyolfson. “At practice I was talking to her and I was like, ‘Wow, you do not look like a rookie at all.’ She’s super athletic and can play.”

Wiebe, well-known in provincial puck circles, spent four years on the University of North Dakota hockey team. The first time she actually put a football uniform on was at her first Valkyries practice in February. She is already starting at receiver and making an instant impact.

Alyssa Wiebe (#13) makes a catch against the Regina Riot.
Photo by Michelle Berg, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
She helped the Valkyries to a 47-21 victory over their archrival Regina Riot in Western Women’s Canadian Football action at SMF Field in Saskatoon on Sunday night. Wiebe recovered the surprise opening short kickoff by the Riot and hauled in the first touchdown of the night. She had three catches for 39 yards, although the star of the evening was Julene Friesen with five touchdowns and 231 yards rushing.

“Definitely (Alyssa’s) good hands, is the first thing I noticed,” said Valkyries head coach Jeff Yausie. “She seems to be kind of a natural slot back. She uses the waggle very well — that run at the line of scrimmage. And then she catches the ball well in flight, which is a unique skill. I know lots of players that can play flag football, but once you put the helmet and shoulder pads on, they don’t catch the ball as well. She took to it right away.”

Wiebe’s hockey background helps.

“In hockey, I was a playmaker, I saw the whole ice really well. So in football it’s helped me be able to find the openings and find space,” said the 25-year-old Wiebe. “I had soft hands in hockey, so I think that’s helped me out here. I like to catch the ball and I have soft hands. It just comes natural.

She frequently inquired about playing for the Valkyries over the years, but held back because practices started during the winter when Wiebe is focused on hockey. But a friend of hers — Mira Trebilcock, a safety for the Regina Riot — encouraged her to play. The two faced each other for the first time on the football field on Sunday night.

“After seeing her have so much fun, making new friends and be a part of that team sport and team atmosphere, I was like, ‘I’m playing this year, I’m going,’” Wiebe said.

Wiebe has played hockey since she was about three. Her 45 goals and 81 points in 2007-2008 for the Notre Dame Hounds still stand as an SFMAAAHL single-season record. She also played for U18 Team Canada and went on to the University of North Dakota from 2008 to 2012 where she became their first player to reach 100 points in a career. She helped a UND team that was not competitive in her first season, to become a top-8 team by the time she finished.

She had a chance to play for Team Canada’s U22 development camp, but withdrew because of the intense time commitments involved. She was ready to start her career and go a different route at the time. The last few seasons Wiebe has played in the Adult Safe Hockey League, until her foray into football.