Thursday, November 17, 2011

Confidence Within Change: Valkyrie Take on Chicago Without Two Key Starters

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Valkyrie practice Thursday in Wayzata, MN

Imagine you are a coach, you are preparing for a game that could make or break your playoff hopes.  You unfortunately though will not have your starting running back, who was injured two games ago.  On top of that you won't have your starting quarterback who was injured in your second game.  You have your shortest time in between games to get your backup quarterback and team prepared.  Would you be confident two days prior to the game?  Probably not, but that is just what Co-Head Coaches Tony Nguyen, Everett Lindsay and their staff are.  There are some things that have changed with the roster, but what hasn't changed is the great coaching that comes from this staff that had the two time reigning champs down at halftime.  What do they have in store for Saturday against the 0-2 but dangerous Chicago Bliss?

Jocelyn Bendijo is the starting quarterback in place of the injured Jana Skrtic, she has had a little over a month now of first team reps.  She is confident in the system that for the previous 6 months she had been working on as a backup.  In comparison to Skrtic, Bendijo is a run first quarterback but that is not to say she can't make all the throws needed.  The Valkyrie coaching staff hasn't changed the offense for Jocelyn, they are expecting her to run their "college bend" offense even if her skill set is a bit different than Jana's. 

Jana Skrtic was the leader on the field for the Valkyrie, but with her now out for the Chicago game the void of her on field leadership needs to be filled.  Coach Everett said, "As far as offensive leadership, Whitney Meierotto and Cydney Froelich have stepped into that role for us now that Jana is out."  It will be an interesting dynamic to not have the playcaller Bendijo be the leader but instead have a couple pass catchers in WR Meierotto and TE Froelich fill that role.  The leadership position isn't something new to either as they have been the leaders on defense for the Valkyrie's first two games, and now will just need to carry that over to offense.

The running back for the Valkyrie will once again be Katrina Stewart stepping in for Lisa Bastien.  She showed flashes in her first game against LA, but never got free against the tough Temptation defense.  Adding the threat of Bendijo as a runner may take more pressure off Katrina and free up some running lanes.  Chicago hasn't been rock solid on defense, and Katrina maybe shocked at the amount of open space in comparison to last game against the reigning LFL champs.

Injuries have forced the personnel changes at the running back and quarterback positions.  There has been movement elsewhere as well for the Valks.  Kellie Gillispie who has started at center will now play at defensive end, "She has earned it with hard work and being a smart player, she should do really well there," Coach Nguyen said of Gillispie.  Kelli will be assigned the task of slowing down the LFL's reigning MVP in Chicago's QB Heather Furr and the explosive RB ChrisDell Harris. 

Taking Kelli's spot at center will be Chrissa Landwehr, "Chrissa has great strength so she is well suited for the center position," the one time Minnesota Viking offensive linemen, now Valkyrie coach Everett Lindsay stated.  Chrissa's job should be somewhat easier than expected as Chicago's Yahshi Rice, sister of NFL Pro Bowler Simeon Rice, is said to be now out for the game on Saturday night. 

Standing amongst the team prior to Thursday's practice it was obvious that even with the changes on their team, they were a confident group.  They know they need to take advantage of their final home game of the season and get a win to set themselves up for a playoff run.  The hope being that come January, both Lisa and Jana will be back to take on Seattle in their final regular season game.  With that, the Valkyrie will be an even better team than the one that once again...had the LA Temptation trailing and looking for answers after one half with Jana at QB.  On Thursday, they were cool (it was sub 32 degrees outside) and confident that they will be able to carry out that plan and make the playoffs in their first LFL season.  "We are going to take care of business this weekend and then go beat Seattle and head to the playoffs at 3-1," a very confident Coach Tony stated.  We will see Saturday if that confidence is well founded.

Be sure to come out to Hubert's Sports Bar and Grill in the Target Center prior to the Valkyrie game on Saturday at 6:30 pm to watch STOB's Valkyrie Pregame Podcast!


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