REGINA -- There was never any doubt of Aimee Kowalski's abilities as an athlete. The question that lingered was how could she best apply her skill to the team.Kowalski and the Regina Riot feel they have found the answer.
It took one season to figure out, but the team’s starting quarterback feels she has finally found her rhythm on the field and with her teammates.
“I definitely feel a lot more comfortable this year,” Kowalski said. “I have settled down a lot in the pocket, I take the time now to be more patient. Overall, I think I just found what works best for me.”
For the second consecutive year, Kowalski has led the Riot to a Prairie Conference semifinal game in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. The Riot, which posted a 2-2 record during the regular season, will host the Winnipeg Nomads Wolfpack (1-3) on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Mosaic Stadium. The winner will advance to the conference title game the following week and will take on the victor of the second semifinal contest between the defending league champion Saskatoon Valykries (4-0) and Manitoba Fearless (1-3).
Kowalski, a graduate of Vanier Collegiate in Moose Jaw, joined the Riot in 2011 for its first season in the WWCFL. She didn’t have football on her impressive athletic resume, however. Instead, Kowalski was a two-sport star at the collegiate level in the U.S., where she played softball (at a junior college in Texas) and soccer (at an NAIA program in Iowa).
She learned the quarterback position on the fly a seasona go.
“She has been progressing the way we wanted her to,” explained Riot head coach Jon Baxter. “She has always been a leader for our team, but I think this year she has taken it a step further. She looks more comfortable in everything she does.”
The production numbers suggest the same. The Riot offence managed to score just 65 points in four game in 2011. This season, though, Kowalski and company scored 99 points in four games. Arguably, Kowalski’s best game this year came against the Nomads Wolfpack on June 10 when she passed for 355 yards and added a rushing touchdown.
Why the improvement this year?
During the off-season, Kowalski, in search of that needed chemistry with her offensive teammates, worked with the Riot coaches and helped design many of the plays the team uses in its playbook this season. That process not only helped her learn the plays, but it also eased her into the position.
“I basically had input in what I thought would work best for me and for everyone,” Kowalski explained. “I could say which player would be best suited for a certain position, which players I thought could make certain plays if we put them in different spots.”
With several new faces on the roster this season, Kowalski hasn’t had to do the majority of the heavy lifting on her own.
“Last year, Aimee was basically our entire offence,” Baxter admitted. “This year, though, she has more options around her. She has good running backs, good receivers ... she’s surrounded by more athletes that have helped our offence.”