Laurence Thivierge leading the way for new generation of Blitz superstars in Vancouver

As one of the signature teams in Canadian female football, the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds in Vancouver served as one of the defining moments for the Montreal Blitz. With the host city serving as an intersection, where numerous generations of Blitz talent collided, it heralded a coming of age for the highly talented Laurence Thivierge.

Serving as an anchor for the Blitz on offense, the 2017 campaign signified the first-ever for the club in the Women’s Football Alliance. Finishing the inaugural season in the WFA as the leading rusher for the Blitz, Thivierge logged a superlative 376 rushing yards and five touchdowns. In addition, Thivierge would also see spot duty on defense, displaying her versatility. As a side note, quarterback Maude Lacasse, who was also part of Canada’s contingent in Vancouver ranked second in team rushing.

Making her debut for Canada, among numerous Blitz players sharing in this milestone, the prestige of competing at the international level took on more profound importance for Thivierge. Considering that 2017 marks only the third season in her distinguished career, she displayed a prodigious talent that certainly made her one to watch, especially in a strong showing at the 2016 Canadian Women’s Nationals.

Thivierge quickly made an impression for Canada. Making her debut for Canada in an historic contest against Australia, one which featured Dr. Jen Welter as head coach, the first IFAF alum to serve in this exciting role, Thivierge was a key component for Canada, establishing a ground game that resulted in attaining over 50 rushing yards.

Such an achievement is one that not only affirmed Thivierge’s status as a world class competitor, it quickly established her as a key asset in the Canadian offense. In discussing the achievement, Thivierge’s humility rises to the surface.

Thivierge (#21) decked out in Canada’s red jersey (Credit: Debra Carlson, Diz Ruptive Photography)

Although the revelation of this statistical performance reflects a new discovery, one of significant pride, Thivierge prefers to observe the bigger picture, one where the prestige of donning Canada’s sweater supersedes such numeric aspects. Instead, the observation is one where the privilege contributed towards a more confident player,

“I honestly did not know before. As a second year player, I was already really proud of being selected on the team and having the chance to play with the best players across Canada.

I was seeing this as an opportunity to learn and become a better player. I was ready to compete and give it my best in practice, but knowing I have only been playing for two years, I was not expecting to play as much as I did.

Any player will agree that being able to help your team moving the ball is a really good feeling. Looking back to this game, it felt good to get some yards in front of our home crowd and play against the very best of Australia. I have to share this achievement with our amazing offensive line players because a running back is nothing without its O-line.”

While Thivierge represents the future of football for Canada, there was also a chance to connect to its heritage. As the roster featured three players who were part of the inaugural IFAF Worlds in 2010 (Alex Black, Trina Graves, Christine O’Donnell), the chance to call them teammates provided her with a profound appreciation for the women who helped establish a foundation.

Of note, there was another member of that historic 2010 roster that was part of Thivierge’s experience in Vancouver. Saadia Ashraf, who currently serves in an executive capacity with the Blitz, was part of Canada’s roster as one of its quarterbacks for both, the 2010 and 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds.

Taking on the role of coach for Team Canada, Ashraf was one of two alums making history on home soil in 2017. Joined by Marci Halseth, who calls the Saskatoon Valkyries her club team, they were the first former players to serve in a coaching capacity with the national team.

Surrounded by such empowering role models, it was more than a source of motivation for Thivierge. In reflecting on the opportunity to share in this monumental milestone with an individual of Ashraf’s stature, it was one filled with tremendous honour, finding new inspiration in someone that remains one of the most influential figures for female football in Montreal.

“Definitely! She deserved the spot on the coaching staff, that’s for sure, and nobody could say otherwise. She did so much for women’s football. She is one of our coaches with the Montreal Blitz and we became good friends over the last year. I was really looking for to share and live the experience with her.

In action against Team Great Britain at the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds (Credit: Jes Quesada, Game On Photo)

With the Blitz, whether I need some advice or a pep talk, Saad is always there for me, so I knew I would have someone in the coaching staff that I could be comfortable asking my questions to.

In Vancouver, she was always there to help me whenever I needed it, even if it was 11 after our second practice of the day. She played for so many years, she played in the last World Championship and she’s someone I really look up to. I know how much she loved playing and how much she invested in the sport, so it definitely motivated me to go all out on every single rep.”

Considering that the unbreakable bonds of friendship have also defined Thivierge’s gridiron odyssey as a proud member of the Montreal Blitz, it was a prevalent theme in Vancouver. The presence of numerous Blitz teammates, along with dedicated members of the coaching staff and trainers partaking in this unforgettable Team Canada experience enriched the privilege of participation at the international level.

Knowing that she was also part of another proud chapter in Blitz history, expanding its legacy as a class organization filled with some of the world’s finest competitors, it provided a rich element of fulfilment for Thivierge. Wearing the Canadian jersey is one that took on new meaning, as she marched out onto the field side-by-side with her sensational sisters from the Blitz,

With arms outstretched, Thivierge (#21) celebrates a touchdown scored by Alex Kowalski (Credit: Debra Carlson, Diz Ruptive Photography)

“It was one of the best experiences of my life and I had to chance to do it with some of my best friends. The Blitz is like my second family. We spent a lot of time together during the season and in the off-season and we go through a lot all together.

We got to do it all together and it is something we will remember for the rest of our lives. It was fun to know I could rely on my teammates during the training camp and the tournament. We got there a day after everybody else and so we had to catch up on the rest of the team. We studied the plays all together on the first night and managed to be on the same level as the other girls on the next day.

It was challenging from the very beginning but knowing I had my best friends with me was a relief. It was also an amazing feeling to share the field with them all the way in Vancouver.”

The assiduous effort to study the playbook reflected the essence of dedication, one that yielded positive dividends on the gridiron. Such an education redefined the term crash course, displaying the sense of sacrifice that made the dream of competing for Canada a reward well earned.

Although the plethora of practices, team meetings and getting acquainted with players from all corners of Canada in such a short time span added to a whirlwind time filled with awe and wonder, it was part of a life defining time for Thivierge. Culminating with an appearance in the gold medal game, it served as a dazzling denouement that is destined to propel her towards grander goals.

Employing grace and perseverance, the chance to attain the pinnacle of competing at the IFAF Women’s Worlds not only introduced a shining star to a much bigger audience, it was a chance to appreciate her contribution to the national team as another piece to its long-term puzzle towards greatness.

“My favorite moment is probably when we stepped on the field for the gold medal game. It was such an intense feeling. We just had a week of training camp, 20 practices, lots of meetings, 100 plays to learn, two weeks to learn a whole new system, learn how to play with 40 new girls and two hard-fought games to get there.

Everybody was pumped, the crowd was screaming, we were ready for the fight. I felt honoured, grateful and really proud to be there. I mean, I was about to play the biggest game of my life with, and against, the best players in the world. It really hit me when we ran out on the field how lucky I was to be there. Even though the outcome is not the one we were hoping for, this game is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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