A group of current and former University of Saskatchewan women are proving their gridiron grit.
The athletes’ football supremacy was most recently reinforced March 15 when the Canadian women’s national football team announced their roster for the 2013 International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship. This is the second World Championship for women’s football and it will be held June 28 to July 7 in Vantaa, Finland.
Eleven current and former University of Saskatchewan students were named to the squad that includes a 45-person starting lineup and a 10-person reserve roster. Each woman also plays for Saskatoon’s only female tackle football team, the Saskatoon Valkyries. The Valkyries will also be sending four of their 10 coaches to help draw up the game plan for the national team.
The selection process for the players started last August, with the Challenge Cup. The Cup matched four provincial teams and one regional squad against one another. Scouts hand-picked the top 75 players from the tournament and invited them to one of two final selection camps held in Moose Jaw and Fredericton.
Marci Kiselyk, a former Huskies basketball player and current Valkyries receiver, attended the Moose Jaw selection camp on March 2.
“It was pretty cool,” Kiselyk said. “We did a [physical testing] combine like you would see in the NFL or CFL. Then in the afternoon we did two hours of on-field stuff. They did some individuals, a little bit of scrimmage [and] some one-on-ones.”
The players were not told if they made the team at the selection camps. Instead, those chosen were contacted just before the final roster was revealed by Football Canada.
Kiselyk says she was eagerly waiting for the phone to ring.
“I felt cautiously optimistic,” she said. “I think I had a pretty good camp and I had hoped that I had done enough to show the coaches that I deserved to be there.”
When she got the call that confirmed her hopes, Kiselyk was ecstatic.
“I was very excited. I’ve played a lot of basketball, but I’ve never had the chance to represent Canada.”
Former Huskies women’s hockey player Julie Paetsch also played for Canada at the inaugural 2010 World Championship in Sweden. She is currently recovering from a knee injury and was placed on the team’s reserve roster list for this year. With any luck she will be ready to play by June 22, when the team will assemble for a pre-tournament training camp before flying to Finland to vie for a shot at the World Championship against teams from Germany, Sweden, Finland, Spain, and the U.S.
The Valkyries’ offensive line also had a good showing at the Moose Jaw selection camp. Among the three individuals selected to play for Team Canada is Jessie Buydens, who also represented her home country with Paetsch in Sweden in 2010.
A U of S graduate and current sessional lecturer, Buydens was playing for the Saskatoon Wild Oats women’s rugby club when she was first introduced to football. Buydens was asked to attend the selection camp for Team Canada three years ago based on her rugby experience, and she made the team.
“My first actual football game was at Worlds in Sweden. It was crazy, but it was fun.”
Canada finished second in 2010, losing 66-0 to the U.S. in the championship final.
“The United States has a really strong women’s football program. Their team was miles ahead of every other team there last time,” Buydens said.
Canadian women’s football programs have since sprouted up across Canada, providing incoming players with time to study the sport. Buydens hopes the added experience will give her squad a chance to avenge the loss.
“I’d like to beat the States,” she said. “We’ve got more teams, more players to select from… more experience from the girls that are going. Looking at the roster I think we’ve got a stronger team than we did last time. Hopefully that shows on the field.”