It could be nerves, it could be excitement, but whatever it is, the TRU WolfPack women’s soccer team is happy to be able to play before their home fans for the first time this Canada West Season.
With 12 new players, the excitement-nervous level going into their matches this weekend at Hillside Stadium against the Alberta Pandas (1-0-1) and UNBC Timberwolves (0-2) could be 50-50. Kickoffs on Saturday (Sept. 17 vs. Alberta) and Sunday (Sept. 18 against UNBC) will be noon.
Following back to back losses against Calgary and Lethbridge on the road last weekend, The WolfPack are looking to improve upon those results and their efforts.
Kindra Maricle (midfield, Kamloops) is one of only two starters back from the team which went to the Canada West quarterfinals in 2015-16.
“I am definitely excited,” she said. “This year we have a lot of energy with a lot of rookies. I am looking forward to playing at home.”
She feels the opposition this weekend will be formidable opponents.
“We played the Pandas last year. We were strong against them in the first 30 minutes. I am not sure how many new players they have. But UNBC, we played them already in the preseason and lost. It was very close. Anything can happen.”
Maricle says despite their inexperience, the fitness level and competitiveness of the squad has improved greatly over 2015-16. “The team chemistry is better than any team I have ever been on. Everyone is there for each other. The road trips are so much fun. I have never been on a team like this before. As soon as we start winning, it is going to be awesome.”
As far as this weekend and the rest of the season goes, Maricle — who is a team captain — is hoping that TRU can catch a few teams off guard. “Those were actually some of my favorite games last year. Work beats talent when talent stops working. We are hard workers. We might not win pretty but a victory is a victory. Last year we squeaked into the playoffs and anything can happen. That is what I am hoping for this year.”
The WolfPack have no true fifth or fourth year players on their roster. Maricle and Katie Harding (Salmon Arm) are in their fourth year of school but both had time away from the program earlier in their careers. With so many young players, you would wonder if the rookies are shying away from the physical play. One who isn’t is Sasha Sirianni (midfield, Kamloops). “ I have found it surprisingly OK. I expected them to be really big and physical. Against all the teams we have played so far, I have been able to hold my own and learned not to underestimate myself. I had gone into the game thinking to myself that they were so much bigger and better. When you do that you play scared. When you go in with the mindset that you are just as good as anyone else out there, you do well.”
Kenzie Lacon (Victoria) is a first-year forward. She believes as well that despite a slow start to the season, things will rebound and they will have a strong squad moving forward.
The TRU program is going through a change in culture with a new head coach in Kelly Shantz and so many fresh faces. Sirianni admits that one of the reasons she committed to Thompson Rivers was the chance to start something new.
“I kind of like it. It’s a whole new change for everyone not just me. We are all on the same page and we are going through the same thing. In a few years we will be so strong.”
She admits come 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, she will experience some butterflies as she hits the field rather than be in the stands as a fan. “Sure there will be. So many people will be watching. It’s our first home game. The first two Canada West matches away were alright because no one knew me. I am super excited though to represent my school and be on this team.”
Both matches will be webcast live on www.Canadawest.tv.
CORNER KICKS: This is the first appearance by Alberta to Thompson Rivers University in the sport of women’s soccer. The Pandas have only one fifth year player: defender Fallon Dickie of Sherwood Park, Alta.
Panda keeper Cassie Bazzarcelli (2nd year, Edmonton) leads the Canada west with a goals against average of 0.00 and saves percent (1.0). TRU keeper Alyssa Smith (1st year, Langley) is fourth in the Canada West in saves (15).