You can never have enough experience on your roster, especially when you are a young team.
TRU WolfPack men’s soccer team got that and as an added bonus: A top home grown player when Justin Donaldson committed to the team.
Donaldson is a St. Ann’s Academy grad and spent two seasons at UVic. He became academically eligible prior to the ’Pack opening training camp Tuesday.
“Justin and I have been speaking the last two years since he wasn’t returning to UVIC,” said TRU head coach John Antulov. “Obviously, we are interested in him. He wasn’t clear though about his direction in schooling. Once he decided what he wanted to do, we set the wheels in motion to get him eligible to play this year. He has put in a lot of work to get himself to this point and has shown his commitment to TRU.”
“ I am really excited,” said the 22-year-old Donaldson, who’s older brother Zach played one season for TRU before finishing his schooling and athletic eligibility with the UBCO Heat a few years ago. “I have always looked up to John as a head coach. He has known me for years. He is giving me a chance where a lot of people wouldn’t. I have worked very hard in the summer session of school to get here.”
Donaldson is enroled in the Early Childhood Education degree program at Thompson Rivers.
“I think I have matured a lot since I first went to university out of high school (he took Arts at UVIC). Back then, my first priority was to play soccer. After a few years, I figured out what I need to do to be successful in the classroom and on the field.”
Both agree that the timing is right for Donaldson to make an impact with the WolfPack and in the classroom. The team has lost a lot of veteran experience with the graduation of five players including Kyle Fertile (Kamloops, BC) and Oriol Torres (Barcelona, Spain). Both of whom play positions Donaldson does (forward and midfield).
“I have no doubt that Justin will be able to make a big impact with our team this year,” Antulov states. “He is able to play different positions and gives us versatility as a wide midfielder on either side or a striker up high or as a second striker in behind. He gives us many options and will battle our other vets for playing time.”
“I will love playing here,” Donaldson said about having Hillside Stadium as his home pitch. “It is great to be home. It is the best feeling to play for your home town. I am excited to come in and hopefully start. I think my strengths are as an attacker. I always like to run. I think I’ll bring a bit of pace and knowledge of the game on the field.”
He added: The fact we are hosting CIS Nationals next year is a bonus: we have a lot of work before that though as a team. It will be a thrill to play in it though.”
Antulov believes Donaldson has a physical presence and isn’t afraid to get dirty and battle defenders. “That was a dimension that I was looking for this year,” he says. “That type of player frees up space for teammates. He should give Ryan (Glanville, forward, Williams Lake) and Mitch (Popadynetz, forward, Nelson) more opportunities. Most of all though, Justin has CIS experience in a top level program and understands what is needed to win.”
Growing up in Kamloops, Donaldson is well aware of the WolfPack’s work in the community. It is something he is looking forward to being a part of. “ I think it will fit in nicely with the rest of my student/athlete experience. I enjoy helping out in the community. Being with the team and being a role model is something that I think I can contribute to. “
Other signings for this season are: Kailum Nicolson (6’2”, centre back, Valleyview secondary/KYSA U-18), Brady VanRyswyk (6’2” keeper, Penticton,Princess Margaret secondary/Penticton Pinnacles, PSCL), Tomas Goddard (6’0” forward, St Ann’s Academy/Kamloops Youth Soccer U-18), Lubomir Magdolen (6’3” keeper, Sa-Hali secondary), Maxime Fieujean (5’8”, right back, Servas, France, FC Amberieu) and Thomas Lantmeeters (6’2, center back, Zulendaal, Belguim, Sint-Jan Bergmans college Genk and KST/Zutendaal VV).
The WolfPack host their own exhibition tournament beginning Thursday, Aug 11, when they entertain the Quest University Kermodes of the PacWest (Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association). The match will be played at Hillside Stadium at 10 am. Other teams involved in the five day event are the MacEwan Griffins of Edmonton, UNBC Timberwolves, UBCO Heat and Douglas College.
Thompson Rivers opens its 2016 Canada West season at home on Saturday, Aug. 27 when UBC Thunderbirds come to town. Kick off at Hillside is 1 p.m.