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Valkyries Rebuilt & Lead Midwest

  • 08 Oct 2018
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Valkyries after Detroit win / Photos: Max Haynes of Max Rugby

The Minnesota Valkyries were one of the founding members of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) and remained in the competition for three years. At the end of the 2011 season, DI club runner-up Glendale challenged the 8th-place team for its spot in the WPL and won, relegating the Valkyries to DI. The team struggled, and during the previous four seasons compiled a 6-19-1 regular-season record. But things have turned around.

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The Valkyries are now leading the DI Midwest, 4-0 with two more away games before the playoffs.

“Over the last few years the Valkyries have been working at reforming and rebuilding our core group of players. We went through quite a bit of transition since leaving the WPL with both players and coaching staff,” explained Valkyries president Libby Berg, who noted a nice balance of core veterans and talented recruits on the pitch today. “The veteran players have been both improving individual skills and developing as a unit over the past few years which offers a solid leadership platform to welcome and integrate with new teammates.”

Berg and Erika Crosby are the leaders and captains, and they’ve been bolstered by the return of former Eagle flanker Kristin Zdanczewicz, who ups the intensity on the pitch. Berg, Zdanczewics and fellow veteran Hannah Kirkman unite for a solid back row. The co-captain also pointed to Katie Weber and Rachel Hunter-Schlicting as exceptional additions to the tight five, while back Steph Alliev is a newcomer to watch.

“Other players to watch are returning players Whitney Swenson, who returned from spending time at ARPTC over the summer, as well as scrumhalf Dalena Khothsombath, front rower Cassie Urbano, and fullback Abby Smith – all forces to be reckoned with in their own positions,” the president continued. “Rookies to the team include Mankato State alumnae Morgan Taylor and Missy Hargadine, both tremendous players at the collegiate level who are continuing to show their skill at the senior level.”

But it’s not just the better numbers and depth that are helping the Valkyries rebuild.

“We have the return of Martha Daines in conjunction with Sue Whitwell, both of whom encourage growth of individual players as well as the team as a whole,” Berg praised the coaching staff. “We have also recently merged with Metropolis, the local men’s D1 side in Minneapolis, which has been great in the continued growth of the rugby community in Minnesota.”

The Valkyries have defeated Wisconsin twice (32-12, 38-18), Detroit 48-14 and Chicago 63-5 last weekend. Last Saturday, Weber led on points scored, accounting for 18 on two tries and four conversions, while Zdanczewicz dotted down three tries. Alliev (2), Kirkman, Swenson, hooker Morgan Nielsen and wing Christina Licari also scored.

“Winning our first [4] matches of the league season is definitely exciting. We are coming together and growing as a team with each game,” Berg enthused. “I’m excited to see what we will bring to the second half of the season.”

Minnesota has two more league games before the Midwest championships in November. The Competitive Region (CR) will then name its representatives to the Gold Cup, a cross-CR series that gives top DI teams more and varied competition. This year’s Gold Cup will be held exclusively in the spring and give the Midwest champion solid preparation for nationals.

For more info on the DI Midwest, click here.

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