Excitement is in the air as the start of the TRU WolfPack men’s soccer team training camp approaches.
After learning they will host next season’s (2017-18) CIS Nationals, the WolfPack begin preparing for this season. Head coach John Antulov is expecting about 40 recruits and veterans to be at Hillside Stadium on Tuesday night, Aug 2.
With the Canada West season kicking off two weeks earlier, Antulov and his returning players are looking forward to getting underway. TRU finished with a 3-6-3 record in the Pacific Division last year: their second in CIS.
Antulov has six committed recruits already and says he could have more by the end of next week.
“We are trying to finalize things. There have been a couple of players who have contacted us that are interesting. We are forward to taking a look at them.”
The coach says the first week will be used as an evaluation for not only prospects but veterans as well.
The WolfPack lost five quality players to graduation : starting keeper Travis Froehlich (Revelstoke), defender Corey Wallis (Enderby) midfielders Braeden Burrows and Kyle Fertile (both from Kamloops) and forward Oriol Torres (Barcelona, Spain).
Antulov knows those are deep holes but thinks veterans—even those into their second year of eligibility — will be able to handle the challenge. “No question we lost some guys who were quality and developed over the course of their five years here. I think we recruited well. But at the end of the day they have to come in and do the job. Some of the guys are young. There will be growing pains with that. Will they be as seasoned as the guys we lost? No. But we are hoping over time they can minimize mistakes and be solid.”
The coach is hoping that fans understand that the core of players coming back this season are mainly second and third year guys the potential is strong but their inexperience could still be a downfall.
“If you take Colton (Walker, fourth year, Sicamous) and Ryan (Glanville, 2nd year, Williams Lake) out — a lot of them are young. We can’t expect miracles but hopefully they exceed expectations. If they meet expectations—Finlay (McPhie, 3rd year, Vernon), Adam Swanson (2nd year, North Vancouver) had fantastic years in 2015. If they can keep that level and progress it bodes well. I think we have some good young players coming in. But again, they are first year guys. There will be growing pains.”
Glanville (who was tied for third in Canada West goal scoring with eight) became the first WolfPack soccer player to be named a Canada West all-star when he was named to the second team last season. Antulov expects both he and Mitchell Popadynetz (3rd year, Nelson) will garner a lot of attention from the opposition. “Teams will look at that for sure but that is going to create other opportunities and open things up for some of the other players as well too. Hopefully those other guys like Olamide Adjibike (2nd year, Maple Ridge) and Mike Harvey (4th year, Calgary) will wind up with more opportunities to show their creativity.”
Antulov stresses that no jobs are guaranteed at training camp and maybe one of his first year players might make their mark early on. “I think young Kailum Nicolson out of Kamloops has a ton of potential and can do some really good things. There are four or five kids that we have coming in will be solid. If we are able to secure some of these other guys coming into camp as a group we will fine.”
The WolfPack will move into ‘two a day’ workouts beginning August 8th. They are hosting an exhibition tournament beginning Thursday, Aug. 11, when they entertain the Quest Kermodes (PacWest) at 10 a.m. at Hillside.
Other teams competing are Douglas College (PacWest), UNBC, MacEwan and UBCO (all Canada West). The tournament wraps up on Monday Aug. 15.
TRU opens its Canada West season on Saturday, Aug. 27, at Hillside when they meet up with the defending league champs: UBC Thunderbirds. Kickoff will be 1 p.m.
THROW INS: Practice times in week one will be 5-7 p.m. with the “two-a-days” beginning Aug. 8 with sessions from 9-11 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. They are free to attend.