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Reigning Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL) champions, the Regina Riot saw their biggest turnout in team history at their first annual meeting to gear up for the 2018 season. In the Queen City, more women than ever are looking to try their hand at competitive tackle football.

Returning for his second season as head coach, Olivier Eddie has high hopes for the upcoming season. 

“We take a lot of time off during the winter and just to see everyone and to be reunited is fun and exciting,” Eddie said. “It’s good to see everyone and their level of excitement and commitment early on.”

The teams’ first meeting saw a total turnout of 65 potential players, with 21 committed new recruits and 11 possible recruits still in the process. One new athlete, grade 12 Eliza Balkwill came out this season for her first kick at the Riot roster.

“At the end of this last season my flag football coach approached me and asked if I would want to try out,” Balkwill said. “I went to the camp and I absolutely loved it and thought it would be a great idea.”

With previous experience in soccer and flag-football, Balkwill represents a new generation of Regina Riot athletes with diverse skills to bring to the team. She’s optimistic about the challenge that could come in balancing the teams busy practice schedule with her school work, as she heads into her last semester of high school at LeBoldus.

“I know it will be busy but I’m excited to make the time for it,” Balkwill said. “I’m used to having a pretty busy schedule with soccer.”

The team, which consists of women ages 16 and up, ended last season on a high note; defeating the Saskatoon Valkyries in the conference final in the last ever sporting event held at the historic Mosiac Stadium. The monumental game advanced the team to the final where they won the championship, 53-0 over the Calgary Rage.

The athletes on the team come from a variety of athletic backgrounds, and with their experience in basketball, rugby, hockey and soccer, each player brings something unique and valuable to the Riot roster.

“I think most football programs deal with athletes who have played football for a number of years,” Eddie said. “So we have different challenges that way which are a ton of fun.”

Eddie enjoys coaching the Riot specifically for diversity of the athletes. But the ladies bring diversity to the team in a variety of ways.

“Some of our players are mothers, some are finishing their education, some are just starting school,” Olivier said. “They all have different challenges but they all find a way to make it work.”

Defensive back Courtney Tafelmeyer has been making it work for seven years.

“I come back every year because of the competitive nature of the team and the league,” Talelmeyer said. “There been so much growth within the league but especially the Riot.”

Talelmeyer added that it feels great to be part of the growth and development of women’s football.

This year’s roster is estimated to be slightly larger than that of 2017, with an estimated 55 athletes expected to make the team after final cuts. That’s up from last year’s roster of 51.

Coach Eddie emphasized that from athletic ability, mental resilience, work ethic and time management, the athletes on the team continue to play football at the highest level that their schedules will allow.

“We might start at the base in terms of fundamentals or knowledge of the game, but we progress extremely quickly,” Eddie said. “In one year you’ll see the development of someone at a rapid pace. It’s cool for us and it’s really rewarding as coaches.”

According to Eddie, as soon as the snow melts the team will be back on the field practicing at the new mosaic stadium .

The WWCFL season schedule hasn’t been released yet, but the Riot expects to take the field for their first regular season game in early May.