Making their mark

13 Exemplary Women of 2013 season

Holly Arthur, Halifax, MWFL

While she works towards bringing Nova Scotia’s only MWFL franchise into the championship picture, her efforts off the field have also brought about inspiration. From her role on the MWFL executive as Secretary, she has also helped introduce the Halifax Xplosion to a new group of fans. Having organized a group of players that marched in the Halifax Pride Parade, it would prove to be one of the highlights of the MWFL’s landmark tenth anniversary season.

Saadia Ashraf, Montreal, IWFL

As the starting quarterback for the IWFL’s only Canadian-based franchise, Saadia Ashraf has shaped the Montreal Blitz into a perennial contender. In 2013, she led the club to its third-ever IWFL Tier II championship while serving as the field general for the Canadian national team which claimed the silver medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships. Also serving as the President of the Blitz, Ashraf also volunteers her time at football clinics for young girls.

Alex Black, Capital Area, MWFL

Among a rare group of players named to the Canadian national team for the second time in their career (her first appearance was in 2010), Alex Black made her presence felt. A two-sport star that has also competed in track and field with the University of New Brunswick, Black’s athleticism made her an integral part of Canada’s offensive attack in a silver medal effort.

With the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds being held in the middle of the MWFL season, there was no opportunity for Black to take a breather. Returning to her role as quarterback for the Capital Area Lady Gladiators, she proved why she is one of the most decorated players in league history. Propelling the club to an upset of the Saint John Storm, the Lady Glads captured the Judy Upward Trophy as Black also earned a nod to the MWFL’s All-Decade Team.

Candice Bloomquist, Saskatoon, WWCFL

Statistically, Candace Bloomquist may not throw for as many yards or touchdown passes as her rivals in the WWCFL, but she compensates for it with remarkable leadership. A field general in every sense of the term, she is able to lead a balanced offensive attack while knowing the right time to pick apart the opposing defense with a perfectly timed pass. In 2013, she would cement her legacy as one of the WWCFL’s premier pivots as she led the Saskatoon Valkyries to an unprecedented third consecutive championship.

Julie David, Saskatoon, WWCFL

One of Canada’s statistical leaders in all-purpose yards at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, the rest of the world caught up to the talent that is Julie David. A workhorse running back with a driven desire to succeed, she was an integral component in the Saskatoon Valkyries grabbing an unprecedented third WWCFL crown.

Kait DiNunzio, Calgary, WWCFL

Having worked tirelessly by volunteering her time in an executive capacity to help make the WWCFL even stronger, Kait DiNunzio can also be seen on the gridiron with the Calgary Rage. A member of Team Alberta during the 2012 Canadian national women’s championships, she traveled abroad to support the Canadian contingent in Finland during the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Whether it is through her business acumen or her love of the game, DiNunzio’s presence brings a presence to female football that is irreplaceable.

Connie Fekete, Calgary, WWCFL

To call Connie Fekete a cheerleader and proud supporter for women’s football in Canada would be an understatement. Having played as a defensive back for the Calgary Rage, she has worked tirelessly to help promote the sport while giving back to the community.

From participating with her Rage sisters in the Calgary Pride Parade, she was also one of several Rage players that adopted a family for the holiday season. Joining the Rage coaching staff for the 2014 season, she is part of a new group of female football pioneers that are looking to prove women can not only play football, but can coach it too.

Trina Graves, Saint John Storm, MWFL

Originally named to the Canadian national team in 2010 as an offensive lineman, she would return for a second time in 2013. Named to the squad as a member of its defensive unit, it was testament to the versatility of Graves’ great gridiron skills. Although injury prevented Graves from competing in the gold medal game, she was named as one of Canada’s team captains. Also named to the MWFL’s Tenth Anniversary Team, Graves is one of the sport’s true pioneers.

Lisa Klaverkamp, Manitoba Fearless, WWCFL

Competing for the Canadian National Team at the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships, Klaverkamp carved a unique mark for herself. At 46 years of age, she was the oldest player competing at the event. Reputed as one of the hardest hitters in the WWCFL, she is an ageless wonder in the same mold as hockey’s legendary Gordie Howe, who played into his fifties.

Aimee Kowalski, Regina, WWCFL

Although the Regina Riot came within one game of a WWCFL championship, it was a groundbreaking year for starting quarterback Aimee Kowalski. Having established herself as the league’s premier pivot, she led the Riot to an historic triumph in 2013, snapping the Saskatoon Valkyries undefeated streak (dating back to 2011). Competing as a punter and back-up quarterback on the Canadian national team, she orchestrated the comeback against Finland which propelled Canada into the gold medal game.

Cheryl O’Leary, Capital Area, MWFL

Having served with the Capital Area Lady Gladiators as a player and member of the coaching staff, Cheryl O’Leary had a year to remember in 2013. With Football Canada, she was a mentor coach for the Canadian contingent that claimed silver at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds.

A few weeks later, she would help the Lady Glads to an upset of the Saint John Storm to grab the Judy Upward Trophy as MWFL champions. Elected as MWFL President for the 2014 season, O’Leary is carving a remarkable legacy as a modern-day builder of women’s football in Atlantic Canada.

Julie Paetsch, Saskatoon, WWCFL

Quite possible the toughest competitor in Canadian women’s football, Julie Paetsch is a force to be reckoned with. Despite battling injuries in 2013, Paetsch made her presence felt not just once or twice, but on three separate occasions. With the 2013 WWCFL championship game signifying her first appearance since injury, she would be named Defensive Player of the Game as Saskatoon grabbed its third straight league crown.

Named to the Canadian team for the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, she would be recognized as Canada’s Player of the Game after a loss to the United States in the gold medal game. In August 2013, she would make Canadian female sporting history as she was the first-ever WWCFL player claimed in the 2013 Canadian Women’s Hockey League Draft. Selected by the Calgary Inferno, she would score a goal in her CWHL debut.

Stevi Schnoor, BC Angels, Seattle Mist, LFL

Although the 2013 LFL season was cancelled, it did not stop Stevi Schnoor from competing. One of the defensive stalwarts for the BC Angels, the club was still scheduled to compete in the annual Pacific Cup.

Despite the Angels being replaced at the last-minute she joined Angels teammates Mary-Anne Hanson and Deanna Schaper-Kotter for an opportunity to compete with the Seattle Mist, the club hosting the Pacific Cup. The move would pay tremendous dividends for the Mist. Having scored three touchdowns, Schnoor (a former member of the Canadian rugby team) helped the Mist to a 27-25 triumph over Los Angeles. As the first Canadian-born LFL player to be named Pacific Cup MVP, she would be dubbed “Stevi Wonder” by Mist fans for her historic performance.

(Left to right: Capital Area Lady Gladiators members Robyn Neill, Kris Chatterton, Alex Black and Cheryl O’Leary proudly display the Canadian flag. Photo credit: Baxter Photography)

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