Football Canada names its roster that shall grace the gridiron at the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds

With 2017 signifying Canada’s sesquicentennial, a unique new chapter to its growing yet remarkable female sporting legacy shall include the opportunity to serve as host country for the IFAF Women’s World Championships. The feeling of national pride is evident for the 45 women that have been named to the Canadian roster, which is accentuated by a reserve roster of 11.

Destined to be part of sporting Canadiana, this talented collection of female footballers shall not only raise awareness of the growing presence of the women’s game, it represents another encouraging chapter in the step for sporting equality. Equally exciting is the fact that the 2017 edition consists of a titanic trio of female footballers, Alex Black, Christine O’Donnell and Trina Graves, that shall make history on the gridiron.

Among said trio includes a pair of superstars who have established themselves as franchise players in the Maritime Women’s Football League. Although the last few seasons has seen her transition to the role of quarterback with the Saint John Storm, Trina Graves has gained a spot on Canada’s roster at the offensive line slot.

Having played for Team Canada in this position before, Graves’ veteran presence shall make her a key leader and role model for the younger players making their debut on the O-Line including Tanya Henderson of the Edmonton Storm and Sonia Brodeur of the IWFL’s Montreal Blitz.

Quite possibly the greatest player in the history of the MWFL’s Capital Area Lady Gladiators, Alex Black established herself as a multi-sport star during her athletic endeavors at the high school and university level. Among Canada’s offensive threats in 2013, Black will be counted upon again to set the tone. The feeling of Maritime pride also sees defensive back Kaitlynn Girouard of the Storm and running back Olivia DeMerchant, a teammate of Black on the Lady Glads, named to Team Canada.

(Clockwise from top left(: Trina Graves, Olivia DeMarchant, Alex Black and Kaitlynn Girouard are the Team New Brunswick players that shall suit up for Canada in 2017. Image obtained from Facebook

One of five Manitobans selected to Team Canada, Christine O’Donnell joins Black and Graves as part of this special sorority of three-time Team Canada competitors. A mainstay on the Winnipeg Wolf Pack’s defensive line, the stoic and hardworking O’Donnell is part of a national defensive line unit that sees her as the only veteran, with the six other linemen making their debuts. This mirrors O’Donnell’s current situation with her four fellow Manitobans. Wolf Pack teammates defensive tackle Breanne Ward, defensive end Mubo Ilelaboye, plus linebackers Allysa Buckland and Jill Fast are experiencing the milestone of making her debut for Canada.

Having captured the silver medal at the first two editions of the Women’s Worlds (2010, 2013), the golden goal is one that shall likely see Canada on a collision course with their eternal archrivals, the United States. Looking for redemption after being vanquished by their rivals in both gold medal games, the roster features a blend of veteran talent, including 13 competitors that were part of Canada’s roster in 2013.

The defending WWCFL champion Saskatoon Valkyries shall feature prominent on Team Canada’s roster. In addition to head coach Jeff Yausie also holding the same role with Team Canada, eight of his Valkyries players shall be donning the Canadian jersey.

Six Valkyries shall contribute to Canada’s offensive attack, headlined by the dominant running back combination of Julene Friesen and Samantha Matheson, providing opposing WWCFL defenses nightmares for several seasons. Blocking for them on the offensive line shall be another pair of familiar faces in the likes of Alyssa Funk and Jamie Lammerding.

Part of 2013’s roster, wide receiver Marci Halseth (formerly known as Kiselyk) is joined by fellow Valks teammate Carly Dyck. Making her debut at the Women’s Worlds in 2017, Dyck brings a remarkable versatility with her proven abilities as an effective kicker.

A pair of Valks can also be found on Team Canada’s defensive unit. Akin to the receiving duo of Halseth and Dyck, one is a returning veteran while the other is eager for her debut in Canada’s color. Both competing at the defensive back position, Beth Thomson brings the experience of the silver medal earned in 2013, while Shaylyn DeJong, part of a new generation of talent in WWCFL play rounds out the group.

Aimee Kowalski, who emerged as Canada’s field general at the 2013 edition of the Worlds returns in 2017, eager to build on her past successes. Having captured the 2015 WWCFL championship, she is one of 10 members of the Regina Riot named to Team Canada, tops among all teams. Kowalski shall see certain familiar faces on offense including fullback Carmen Agar, wide receivers Claire Dore (who played for Canada in 2013) and her sister Alex Kowalski, while Ashley Viklund shall be on the offensive line.

Defensively, the Riot will feature defensive end Katie Hungle, linebacker Artemis Kouropoulou and defensive back Adrienne Zuck, who was part of Canada’s backfield four years ago. In addition, a pair of Riot players were named to the reserves, including offensive lineman Celeste Schnell and linebacker Mallory Starkey, also a Team Canada alum from 2013.

Regina Riot selections named to Team Canada 2017 (Image obatined from Facebook)

Joining Kowalski as Canada’s other quarterback is Maude Lacasse, the 22 year-old signal caller for the Montreal Blitz, signifying a new generation of talent.

Coincidentally, former Blitz quarterback Saadia Ashraf, who was part of Team Canada’s roster at the inaugural Worlds in 2010, along with 2013, is returning in 2017. Instead of active competition, she shall be serving as one of the coaches, making her the first Team Canada alum in program history to take on a coaching role.

Among the 45 women named to Canada’s roster, a significant change compared to 2013 is the fact that this year’s roster consists of players that have graced the gridiron south of the border. Running back Cassie Brick spent her 2016 with the famous Chicago Force, one of the signature franchises in the Women’s Football Alliance.

Joining Brick is Defensive Back Emilie Halle, whose skills were on-hand for the Detroit Dark Angels. Also part of the mix is running back Amanda Ruller, one of 11 competitors that gained a spot on injured reserve. Her speed was a welcome addition to the Atlanta Steam, who signed her as a free agent after a season spent with the Los Angeles Temptation in 2015.

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