The soccer Pack are back
The TRU WolfPack men’s soccer squad isn’t quite starting from scratch, but there aren’t too many returning ingredients from last season.
“I think you’d be crazy not to say it’s a rebuilding year,” said WolfPack co-head coach John Antulov, who will lead the team alongside Sean Wallace, the other co-head coach.
“We have about six returning players from last year and 14 new players, so it’s going to be a bit of a learning curve.”
The Pack (1-2-0) won 2-1 in their home opener against the UBC Okanagan Heat on Saturday, Sept. 17.
TRU opened its season with a 1-1 draw against the Kwantlen Polytechnic Eagles in Surrey on Sept. 10 before finishing deadlocked at 2-2 with the Douglas College Royals in New Westminster on Sept. 11.
Douglas and the Vancouver Island University Mariners, last year’s national champions, are expected to be the teams to beat this season.
Last season, the Pack finished second in their pool with a 7-3-2 record and lost 2-1 to the Douglas College Royals in the British Columbia Colleges Athletic Association (BCCAA) bronze-medal matchup.
(The BCCAA is now known as the Pacific Western Athletic Association.)
Much of the WolfPack’s success in 2010 was a result of strong play from Justin Wallace, BCCAA rookie of the year in 2010, and veterans like Kyle Fertile, Charles Noftall and Lee Bauer, none of whom are with TRU this season.
“When you lose those type of players, that’s really difficult,” Antulov said.
The challenge for TRU, with so many new faces in the lineup, will be to find team chemistry in time to make a run at the playoffs.
Pack veteran Brynden Swint, a fifth-year defender from Kamloops, said his team might be rebuilding, but that doesn’t make it redundant.
“In my first year, we were thought to be in a rebulding year,” Swint said.
“We had 11 rookies come in and we ended up winning provincials and went to nationals. So, you never know what can happen.”
The Pack aren’t entirely without veteran leadership, though, as defenders Swint and Adam Dodgson, forward Conor Doherty and midfielder Braeden Burrows are back to anchor the lineup.
Some of the new faces expected to make an impact this season are Corey Wallis, a first-year defender from Kelowna, Scott Lively, a first-year midfielder from Langley, Brandon Mendez, a first-year midfielder from Calgary, Cam Kamensek, a first-year defender from Delta, and Ashley Raynes, a second-year midfielder from Manchester, England.
This class of recruits is among the best in TRU’s soccer history, according to Antulov.
“Rebuilding? Maybe, yeah, but that doesnt put us out of it,” said Swint, a Valleyview secondary graduate.
The Pack are scheduled to visit the Heat in Kelowna on Sunday, Sept. 25, before returning to Hillside on Oct. 1 for a date with the Mariners at 2 p.m.
Pack women hope to score more this season
Finding the old onion bag was never easy for the TRU WolfPack women’s soccer squad last season, but head coach Tom McManus thinks things will be different this time around.
“We have more strike force this year,” said McManus, who’s entering his third year in charge of the team.
“I’ve got five of what I think are going to be the top strikers around.”
Three of those strikers — Taylor Miller, a first-year forward from Kamloops, Amanda Barrett, a second-year forward from Salmon Arm, and Jaydene Radu, a first-year forward from Calgary — notched goals in TRU’s season-opening games, a 2-1 loss to the Kwantlen Polytechnic Eagles in Surrey on Sept. 10 and a 3-3 draw with the Douglas College Royals in New Westminster on Sept. 11.
The pack earned their first win of the season on Sunday, Sept. 25, in Kelowna, topping the UBC Okanagan Heat 2-1.
Laura Smylie, a second-year forward from 150 Mile House, and Katie Sparrow, a first-year forward from the Tournament Capital, round out the fivesome of strikers.
TRU had only two multi-goal games in 17 contests (pre-season, regular season and playoffs included) last season.
Fourth-year midfielder Abbey McAuley, a Langley product, is confident her squad, which is welcoming a boatload of first-year players, is set to have a successful season.
“We definitely lost a lot of talent with the girls that graduated, but everyone that came in has picked up their game,” said McAuley, who drew praise from McManus for her leadership skills.
It doesn’t feel like we have as young of a team as we do, even though we’re lacking experience at this level.
“The girls that came in have blown us away.”
Radu, Miller, Sparrow, Madison Wells, a first-year defender from Ladner, and Emily Oliver, a first-year defender from Kamloops, will be relied on to fill the holes left by forwards Val Godard and Heather Lloyd and defender Shannen Meyer, none of whom are returning this season.
“We did lose a lot of talent, but a lot of talent came in,” McAuley said.
TRU suffered a crippling below when standout defender Sarah Gomes, a first-team BCCAA all-star in 2010, was lost for the season after suffering a concussion against the Fraser Valley Cascades in exhibition action on Aug. 29.
“[Gomes] got whacked pretty good,” McManus said.
“There was no foul. I was pretty upset, to say the least.
“She can’t even attend classes and she’s got to sit in dark rooms.”
Gomes might be forced to go home to Prince George and miss the first semester of school.
TRU’s next game, a rematch with the Heat, is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, at Hillside Stadium.
That day at Hillside will be TRU Alumni Day, which will see the Kamloops Sea Cadets’ colour guard on hand for the national anthem and Gyldi’s Pizza host a pizza party for two under-seven Kamloops Youth Soccer Association squads, which will play at halftime.