Annabelle Chevrier shows sensational display of teamwork on game’s biggest stage

Part of a Montreal Blitz whose offensive attack ranked seventh overall during their first season in the Women’s Football Alliance, Annabelle Chevrier was an integral component to such sterling success. With five seasons of experience, Chevrier is also one of the game’s rising stars.

Raised in the suburb of St. Lazare, Chevrier’s football roots hold a unique connection to both the Blitz and the 2017 edition of Team Canada. Attending John Abbott College, where she was also a prodigious competitor in soccer at the AAA level, the school served as her first exposure to the game.

Playing for the flag football team, there was also a unique educational experience for Chevrier. Having not made the team in her first year, she refused to be deterred. Bouncing back, she would qualify for the roster the year afterwards, serving as one of the defining moments of her athletic career.

The experience was also one that propelled Chevrier into superstar status. Named as an RSEQ Flag Football First-Team All-Star in 2012 (one of three John Abbott College players recognized), the same year would see Chevrier star for the Quebec U18 provincial team, capturing a gold medal at Nationals, where the team boasted an undefeated mark.

Perhaps the most unique experience of flag football with John Abbott College was the fact that it would foreshadow the chance to reach even greater heights in the game. Of note, Saadia Ashraf would serve as her head coach in flag football, eventually calling her a teammate with the Montreal Blitz.

Chevrier in action with the Blitz during their IWFL years (Image supplied by Annabelle Chevrier)

Ashraf, who was the Blitz starting quarterback during its halcyon days was also a member of Team Canada in both 2010 and 2013. Of note, Ashraf was back with the national team for 2017 but in a very historic capacity. Along with Marci Halseth, they became the first former players to serve in a coaching role.

Participating with Team Quebec at the 2016 Canadian National Women’s Championships, Chevrier displayed that she was ready to follow in Ashraf’s footsteps and continue the legacy of Blitz stars that suited up for Canada. Named to the Tournament All-Star Team, which also included fellow wide receiver Laurence Pontbriand, the event was a point of pride for this rising star,

“Yes, I was! This step was important and also gratifying. The importance on making the All-Star team gave me a good visibility and made a mark to the recruiters. The nomination also automatically invited me to the Team Canada tryouts.

I was very happy with my performances with Team Quebec (Made out of The Montreal Blitz) during the national’s championship. But it is safe to say; I give all the credits to my coaches and teammates for this achievement!

After years of being in the organization of the Montreal Blitz, my coaches know what I am capable of and put me in situations where they know I will perform in the best of my capabilities.

The girls are the ones who pushed me to excel during the nationals, because it’s a team sport before everything. All I want is to win. My coaches, trainer, teammates and certainly my quarterback Maude Lacasse makes me look good!”

Chevrier (wearing #86) among the members of the Blitz part of Team Canada 2017 (Image supplied by Annabelle Chevrier)

Such a solid performance also brought her flag football career circle. Of note, Maude Lacasse served as Quebec’s starting quarterback at the 2016 Nationals. Coincidentally, she was also Chevrier’s teammate at the 2012 Flag Football Nationals.

Fittingly, Lacasse and Pontbriand would join Chevrier as members of the Blitz named to Team Canada. Considering that this dazzling duo is among the elite receivers for the club, 2017 took on a more profound meaning for both.

As the Blitz joined the Women’s Football Alliance in 2017, they were essential to an offensive attack that scored an astounding 299 points, sporting a 7-2 regular season record and a spot in the postseason. Pontbriand would rank first on the team in receiving, while Chevrier ranked fourth.

Taking into account that Chevrier also placed sixth in rushing, it showed a tremendous versatility. Although Pontbriand only has one season more of experience, she has served as a role model for Chevrier, the type of player that she enjoys calling a teammate and friend,

“Yes definitely, Laurence is a tremendous athlete and I have learned so much through watching her and playing by her side. Her work ethic on and off the field are admirable. I love playing with her, she has a natural leadership without even forcing it.

If I need her opinion or tips about a play or to get off the block, I know she will try to answer me with the best of her capabilities and judgement. She also has a great influence on the team to bring us back together when everything seems to not be getting our way.”

Chevrier (#86) shows her support for Canada from the sidelines in Vancouver (Photo credit: Debra Carlson, Diz Ruptive Photography)

Of note, another member of the Blitz holds a positive influence on Chevrier’s career. Laurence Thivierge, the team’s leading rusher in 2017, and one of her dearest friends, was on-hand for what proved to be the biggest news in both of their careers.

Discovering that both had been named to Team Canada’s entry at the 2017 edition of the IFAF Women’s Worlds, it added a tremendous sheen knowing that it was a shared milestone. Among seven players from the Blitz named to compete on the Canadian offense, it also signified the next step in their careers, experiencing the thrill of international play,

“I was thrilled and very happy! I learned the news while I was in a store with Laurence Thivierge where we both made the team and we were super excited. I called my parents right away to give them the good news. You know, it is the highest level you can play in women’s tackle football.

For us, this meant that we were going to wear our colours to represent our country and I felt privileged and honoured. It represented the fruit of four years of hard work, a whole lot of money and big sacrifices that brought me to where I am now.”

Although an injury would sideline Chevrier’s dream of playing for Canada, it would not extinguish her sense of teamwork. Displaying an amazing and admirable maturity, Chevrier still joined the team in Vancouver.

Donning her Team Canada jersey, showing her support for her fellow Blitz competitors, and fellow Canadians, it stood as one of the event’s feel-good moments, presenting the kind of devotion and sportsmanship that embodies the feeling of family in female football. Although there was a strong desire to play, one that could not be fulfilled by standing on the sideline, it demonstrated great courage, one that certainly inspired her fellow athletes, who truly appreciated her presence,

“My experience was not what I hoped for since I broke my collarbone few weeks before the World Championship. Knowing that I was not going to play, I still decided to follow the team in Vancouver. I do not regret putting everything on hold just to go watch the girls, but I have to admit it was not easy.

A dream became unfulfilled, but new shoes I had to fill. My role was now to support and help my Blitz girls and my new team. I mostly decided to go for the experience, learning new techniques and ways of being coached from coaches all over the country. I have learned so much during those two weeks and I am extremely grateful.

My favorite moment from this experience would be the first game! We were just a bunch of great individual athletes brought up together for the first time. The game gathered us together as a whole and as a unit. We became a family.

Football is a sport that allows us to excel and to leave it all on the field. The connection among the girls gets natural, and it was at that moment that we became sisters.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

NOTE: As this interview was conducted in French, please find the original quotes before translation

“Oui effectivement. Cette étape était très importante et tout aussi gratifiante! L’importance d’être nommé au All-Star m’a donné une bonne visibilité pour me démarqué devant les recruteurs. Elle m’a aussi automatiquement invité au camp de sélection pour Équipe Canada. J’étais heureuse de mes performances avec équipe Québec (qui était composé du Blitz de Montréal) durant le championnat national. Mais encore là, je donne le crédit à mes entraineurs, thérapeutes ainsi qu’à mes coéquipières! Après plusieurs années dans l’organisation du Blitz de Montréal, mes entraineurs savent de quoi je suis capable et me mettent dans des situations où ils savent que je peux performer du meilleur de mes capacités. Les filles m’ont poussé à me surpasser durant les nationaux, car c’est un sport d’équipe avant tout. Mes entraineurs, mes coéquipières et certainement mon quart arrière Maude Lacasse me font bien paraitre.”

“J’étais très heureuse! J’ai appris la nouvelle lorsque j’étais dans un magasin avec Laurence Thivierge qui elle aussi a fait l’équipe et nous étions vraiment excitée. J’ai toute suite appelé mes parents pour leurs annoncer la nouvelle. Vous savez c’est le plus haut calibre que vous pouvez jouer au football contact féminin. Pour nous cela représentait que nous allions porter nos couleurs pour représenter notre pays. C’est tout un honneur. Ma sélection représentait le fruit de quatre années de travail, temps, argents et de gros sacrifices qui m’ont mené jusqu’ici.”

“Oui définitivement, Laurence est une grande athlète et j’ai beaucoup appris d’elle. J’adore jouer à ses côtés, elle a un leadership incroyable sans même se forcer. Si j’ai besoin de son opinion ou de conseils sur un jeu ou même me débarrasser d’un bloque, elle sera me répondre du meilleur de ses capacités et de son jugement. Elle a aussi une grande influence sur l’équipe pour nous rassembler lorsque tout semble ne pas fonctionner. Son travail d’éthique sur le terrain ainsi qu’hors du terrain sont admirable.”

“Mon expérience n’a pas été celle que j’aurais souhaité puisque j’ai brisé ma clavicule quelques semaines avant le championnat du monde. Sachant que je n’allais pas jouer, j’ai décidé de suivre l’équipe et d’aller à Vancouver. Je ne regrette tout simplement pas d’y avoir été, je vais vous avouer par contre que cela n’a pas été facile. Un rêve qui s’est éteint, mais un nouveau rôle que je devais accomplir. J’ai décidé d’aller de l’avant et d’aller à Vancouver pour l’expérience, l’apprentissage avec des entraineurs qui viennent de partout au pays et d’encourager mon équipe. J’ai beaucoup appris durant mon séjour et j’en suis énormément reconnaissante. Mon moment le plus marquant serait lors du premier match, nous étions toutes des individuelles talentueuses, mais durant le premier match tout a changé. Nous sommes devenues une vraie famille. Le football nous permet de nous surpasser et de tout laisser sur le terrain. Les liens se créés et la connexion entre les filles devient naturelle. A ce moment-là, nous étions toutes comme des sœurs et j’étais très fière de faire partie de cette l’organisation.”

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