By Sean Trembath, The StarPhoenix
With another perfect regular season under their belts, the Saskatoon Valkyries 2012 playoff campaign will kickoff Sunday afternoon when they face the Manitoba Fearless in the Western Women's Canadian Football League (WWCFL) Prairie Conference semifinal at Griffiths Stadium.
The Valkyries are a prohibitive favourite, having already beaten the Fearless 47-0 earlier this season, and outscoring their opponents 156-34 over this year's fourgame schedule. They have yet to be beaten in two seasons of WWCFL action.
Despite their distant frontrunner status, the team has no trouble keeping motivated.
"We only get to play seven games at most during the season, so every game is kind of a reward for all of our practice. We want to enjoy it and get the most out of every possible game," said defensive back Katie Miyazaki.
The lopsided scores also allow less-experienced team members to get valuable onfield experience.
"That helps us because it means some of our best players are healthy because we don't have to use them as much," said Jeff Yausie, head coach of the team.
Even when crushing opponents, there are always ways for the team to improve.
"It's about making sure that we're challenging ourselves to always keep focused and pay attention to the details we can control, which is ourselves, and making sure we're running all of our plays well," said Candace Bloomquist, the Valkyries starting quarterback.
The team has a little added incentive this year, with Saskatoon set to host the WWCFL championship game on July 14.
"It's really exciting to see the people that come out and cheer us on. It's fun to be able to play here where we know he have support," said Bloomquist. A title at home would be a chance for the team to give a little back to their steadily growing fan base.
"We really appreciate all the support we get from our families and friends, and all of the fans that are starting to come to our games," she said.
Getting to stay home throughout the playoffs adds to the already-significant Valkyries edge.
"It's huge I think. It's nice because you can settle in and lose that extra travel time. As a general rule, we think it's worth seven points," said Yausie.
Last year's playoff run got off to an odd start. The Winnipeg Nomad Wolf Pack were supposed to come to Saskatoon for the conference semifinal but ended up pulling out, citing roster shortages. The Fearless also pulled out of a scheduled playoff game in Regina. According to Yausie, he has confirmed with the Fearless' head coach that the same will not occur this time around.
Kickoff for Sunday's game is 1 p.m. If the Valkyries win, the next playoff game would be against either the Regina Riot or the Winnipeg Nomad Wolf Pack on July 8, also at Griffiths Stadium.