Jennifer McLean’s experience adds new dimension to expansion Calgary Fillies

With the Legends Football League expanding to the city of Calgary for the 2013 season, wide receiver Jennifer McLean is bound to emerge as a leader. With the moniker Fillies, the new expansion team is in need of some experienced players that can set the example for the rest of the players.

McLean fits the bill perfectly as she is no stranger to the gridiron. Donning number four with the Calgary Rage, a women’s tackle football team in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, her experience will be crucial once the Fillies compete in their inaugural contest.

Image by Candice Ward Photography

Image by Candice Ward Photography

A September 14 tilt with the Regina Rage, coached by former Jacksonville Jaguars player Brent Hawkins, will determine how ready the Fillies are to compete in the LFL. As McLean competed in the WWCFL at the Wide Receiver position, she knows how to evade tacklers, make plays happen and more importantly, take a hit.

Once the LFL announced an expansion team for Calgary (due to logistical problems with the Toronto Triumph), hardcore women’s football fans could not help but wonder if some members of Calgary’s WWCFL team would cross-over. While McLean (joined by Kora-lea Vidal) took the plunge, Tonia Henderson from the rival Edmonton Storm shall also be joining them this season with the Fillies.

Image obtained from Facebook

Image obtained from Facebook

The added benefit of competing in the LFL is that it improves her conditioning, exposes her to more big-game situations and enables her to sharpen her skills. With the LFL playing indoors on a narrower field, McLean will have to be lightning fast with razor sharp reflexes in order to adapt to a faster offense.

Once she returns to the WWCFL in spring 2014, the experience of LFL will benefit because the wider football field shall improve her vision for the game. Perhaps the biggest adjustment for McLean shall be the uniforms.

Image by Candice Ward Photography

Image by Candice Ward Photography

In the WWCFL, McLean wears the full football uniform (complete with the oversized shoulder pads and helmet with full face-mask). While the LFL uniform is much more revealing, she also has the experience and character which will likely expose her as one of the biggest playmakers for the Fillies.

Toronto Triumph to take a breather for 2013 LFL Canada season

As the first Canadian franchise in the history of the Legends Football League, the Toronto Triumph will not be part of the upcoming season. Instead, the fourth franchise in LFL Canada for 2013 shall be the Calgary Fillies. The emergence of the Fillies rounds out the number of Western Canadian based franchises as the league continues to build strong roots in that region.

Donna Paul and Alicia Bell

Donna Paul and Alicia Bell

Having participated in the Eastern Conference of LFL US in 2011, the double blue went 0-4 with its home base being Ricoh Coliseum. In a season riddled with controversy, which included a bench clearing brawl against the Philadelphia Passion along with team captain Krista Ford quitting the team, optimism was abound.

A group of Triumph players pose for the famed Sunshine Girl feature in the Toronto Sun (Image by Jack Bolland – Sun Media)

A group of Triumph players pose for the famed Sunshine Girl feature in the Toronto Sun (Image by Jack Bolland – Sun Media)

One positive aspect from the 2011 campaign was the emergence of Donna Paul. Having once played women’s hockey in the now-defunct National Women’s Hockey League, she emerged as the team’s quarterback once Ford left the squad.

Triumph players hosting a meet-and-greet at St. Louis Bar and Grill in downtown Toronto, Left to right: Andrea Critch, Sylvie Manaigre, Donna Paul and Marife Villagonzalo (Image obtained from Twitter)

Triumph players hosting a meet-and-greet at St. Louis Bar and Grill in downtown Toronto, Left to right: Andrea Critch, Sylvie Manaigre, Donna Paul and Marife Villagonzalo (Image obtained from Twitter)

Educated at the prestigious University of Toronto (where she helped the team win a national women’s hockey championship), Paul was also a school teacher. Her maturity and strong athletic background made her a natural leader for the double blue.

Despite the setbacks, the Triumph was the centerpiece for the newly created Canadian division of LFL for 2012. Players from the Philadelphia Passion of LFL US, such as Jaleesa McCrary and Whitney Paronish were loaned to the Triumph. While there was hope for strong momentum, the team stumbled. An 0-3 start placed the franchise was out of the 2012 postseason picture.

Holding a rooftop interview with Canadian cable television network The Score

Holding a rooftop interview with Canadian cable television network The Score

With one game remaining in the season, the Triumph pulled off a dramatic upset of the eventual LFL Canada champion BC Angels. Contested at Mississauga’s Hershey Centre, their home turf for 2012, their first win in franchise history represented a great turning point. Receiver Crystal Hall would be selected as one of the game’s Most Valuable Players.

Getting pumped up for player introductions (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MyTorontoTriumph)

Getting pumped up for player introductions (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MyTorontoTriumph)

The season produced promising stars such as Tiffany Russell and Petshauna Pinnock. Like Paul, Russell was also educated at the University of Toronto. She was part of a women’s flag football movement at the University which spawned similar programs throughout universities all over Ontario.

Marife Villagonzalo taking a snap from Tiffany Russell (Image obtained from Facebook)

Marife Villagonzalo taking a snap from Tiffany Russell (Image obtained from Facebook)

As a remarkable rookie, Russell would be named as an LFL Canada All-Fantasy Selection, making her eligible for the LFL All-Star tour of Asia. Of note, Russell also converted half of her receptions for touchdowns. Pinnock would emerge as the rushing leader for Toronto while playing valiantly with a 49-yard performance in a loss to the BC Angels.

When she was not wearing number 13 for the Triumph, Roxy Rowe had tremendous development as a bodybuilder (Photo by Masha Cavalier, Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/TrainerRoxy)

When she was not wearing number 13 for the Triumph, Roxy Rowe had tremendous development as a bodybuilder (Photo by Masha Cavalier, Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/TrainerRoxy)

Roxy Rowe joined the aforementioned Paul among some of the two-sport stars on the roster. Both hailing from Ottawa, Ontario, Rowe is a competitive bodybuilder, while Paul’s hockey skills resulted in strong team building for the Triumph.

Unfortunately, logistical and broadcast requirements were not being supported in either venue that the Triumph called home. With the need to reassess the arena situation for the Triumph, the visceral decision was made to suspend operations for 2013.

Danisha Payne: Image obtained from LFL Canada

Danisha Payne: Image obtained from LFL Canada

Despite the difficult decision, there are many things for the franchise to be proud for. Currently, Donna Paul is conducting an after-school program in which she teaches kids the values of fitness and exercise. Alicia Bell was one of four Triumph athletes that braved the cold December weather in front of the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto. The valiant foursome was part of an initiative with PETA to discourage individuals from purchasing fur as a holiday gift.

December 2011: Triumph players participating in the Tackle Cruelty, Bench Fur! campaign. Braving the elements, they are spreading holiday message about not purchasing fur as a gift. (Image by PETA Images)

December 2011: Triumph players participating in the Tackle Cruelty, Bench Fur! campaign. Braving the elements, they are spreading holiday message about not purchasing fur as a gift. (Image by PETA Images)

Well-known personal trainer, fitness model and track coach Alicia Bell from Train It Right getting in game-shape for the Toronto Triumph. (Photo credit by Paul Trepanier for http://trainitright.com)

Well-known personal trainer, fitness model and track coach Alicia Bell from Train It Right getting in game-shape for the Toronto Triumph. (Photo credit by Paul Trepanier for http://trainitright.com)

While fans in the Greater Toronto Area are forced to wait for the Triumph to return, the double blue’s valiant performance in the final game of the 2012 season provided fans with the hope and optimism that this was a team headed in the right direction. In defeating the eventual league champions, it helped to prove that the Triumph are talented enough to succeed.

Despite being sidelined for the 2013 season, there is no question that the Triumph left an impression on the Toronto sporting landscape. With so few professional women’s sports teams, the Triumph were an empowering group of athletic yet character women. The publicity that the team generated and the ink that newspapers devoted to the club represented a break-through for women’s sport that fans can only hope shall be sustained.

Once a new arena is found for the budding franchise, the momentum of that key win and the hopeful return of its stars should comprise a bright future. Until these fearless, female warriors from the gridiron return to represent the city of Toronto, the only thing the fans can do is provide the members of the Triumph with a heartfelt “Thank you.”

Team Leaders from the 2012 season:

* Interceptions: Jaleesa McCrary, Whitney Paronish, Alicia Bell (1)
* Passer Rating: Marife “Mousey” Villagonzalo (56.3)
* Rushing: Petshauna Pinnock (150)
* Rushing Touchdowns: Marife Villagonzalo (4)
* Receiving: Crystal Hall (7)
* Receiving Touchdowns: Tiffany Russell (3)
* Tackles: Jaleesa McCrary (23)

Kylie Rossler to remain cornerstone of Regina offense in 2013

After a stellar 2012 campaign, Kylie Rossler has established herself as one of the premier running backs in LFL Canada. Heading into 2013, the Regina Rage will be counting on her to remain a cornerstone of their offensive attack.

Having come within one win from appearing in the league championship of 2012, the Rage has high hopes that Rossler can lead them to the promised land this season. Statistically, Rossler was one of the most effective weapons on offense in 2012, and any championship hopes will be dependent on her duplicating that success.

Rossler ground out 266 yards to rank second on the Rage, while finishing among the top five rushers in the league. In the squad’s only win against the first place Saskatoon Sirens last season, Rossler was the factor.

She punished the Sirens defense with a superlative performance of 89 yards (in 15 attempts) in a 26-20 final, earning her Player of the Game honors. Her gridiron performance helped to intensify a rivalry with the Sirens that has become one of the finest in women’s sports.

Under the tutelage of Rage quarterback (and LFL legend) Nikki Johnson, Rossler benefitted greatly. She was the perfect complement to Johnson as the two composed one of the most dangerous rushing offenses in the LFL.

Together, the two pounded out 558 combined yards, as the Rage averaged 144 rushing yards per game, tops in the league. Johnson’s presence helped Rossler adjust to the league while refining her running game into one that intimidated opposing defenses.

Having been named a 2012 LFL Canada All-Fantasy selection, she earns the eligibility of being selected to participate in an LFL All-Star Game in Brazil, China, Europe or Japan, respectively. Her presence in any of those competitions would be a great boost to a very proud Regina franchise.

For her tireless contributions to the Rage, Rossler’s great work ethic has earned the respect of fans and teammates alike. Emerging as one of the faces of the franchise, her popularity is only bound to increase in 2013.

With a background in NCAA hockey (having competed with the Robert Morris Colonials and the Mercyhurst Lakers), Rossler understands the dynamics of teamwork and sportsmanship. Having paid her dues at the hockey level for several years, Rossler is now ready to make her mark as one of the dynamic superstars in LFL Canada.