Soccer season may be months away, but the Cascades women’s soccer team is already getting ready. As training began last week, the team announced five new additions for their upcoming 2016 season.
The new athletes include Surrey United players Simi Lehal, Kelsey Mitchell, and Marianne Spring, and Mountain United FC’s Brooke Molby, and Brooke Walton from TSS Academy. Along with the new recruits, the team also has three new transfer students from Kwantlen University, following the university’s withdrawal from competitive league play for its four soccer and basketball teams.
The new recruits couldn’t have come at a better time for coach Rob Giesbrecht.
“We’re graduating three significant players this year and we’re going to graduate a larger number next year, so it’s important that we bring in talent that can fill some big shoes,” he says. “You want to, every year, bring in some talent that can make your program stronger and more balanced from year to year.”
Molby is one of the recruits that has big shoes to fill. “She is a very good keeper, probably the goalkeeper of our future,” Giesbrecht said. “Right now, our goal keepers are going to be in their fourth and fifth years, so we need to have an injection of youth in that position and we’re excited that Brooke Molby is coming for that.”
The other recruits, including Lehal, are also going to bring a strong dynamic to the team. “She’s a forward, and she [has] a potential to be a physical force for us and really impact our team,” Giesbrecht says. “If she can get transitioned well to the university game, she can be a real handful for our opponents.”
The transition from playing on a high school team to a university team is challenging, especially when the team is one of the best in the province. “It’s not easy to step in as a first year player and play on one of the top teams in the CIS,” Giesbrecht says. “They’re going to have the opportunity to play, but it’s going to be tough because we have a lot of talented players that have done well.”
But the players wouldn’t be there if Giesbrecht didn’t think they could carry the team’s success.
“Part of what I’m trying to do here is sustain success,” he says. “We’ve been successful over the last few years with our trip to nationals in 2014, and spent most of 2015 ranked in the top 10 in the CIS.”
Recruitment isn’t always an easy task for coaches, especially when competing with other teams in the area. “It’s competitive,” Giesbrecht says. “I want the same girls that the other CIS elite teams want, and you’re not going to get every player you go after.”
One of the difficulties that UFV’s soccer teams face during recruitment is the disadvantage of not having an on-campus field. “That is the major struggle that I have to get across to these elite players that come to a school that does not have an on-campus field,” Giesbrecht says. “Hopefully in the future that changes, we’re optimistic about that, but the current situation is that we don’t have that.”
While talent is a crucial component when recruiting a new player, character is just as important to Giesbrecht. “I want to get to know the kids, and I want to see what they’re like as people and as students, because to me that’s far more important than how they are as soccer players,” he says. “We want to have a culture on our team that is positive, that is competitive — that’s somewhat like a family.“
Although the team is only beginning their pre-season training, Giesbrecht is already setting goals for the season. “We want to return to the national championship,” he says. “We have a fifth-year class that’s pretty special, a group of girls that came in as first-years, and started as first-years, and have really helped put our program on the map. It’s going to be a special year for that group, and I want those kids to go out as champions.”
But going to nationals is easier said than done. “It’s going to be tough,” Giesbrecht says. “We’re put in the toughest division in the toughest conference in the country, so we’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to go. And it’s the work we do now that’s going to help us in the fall.”
For now, recruitment is finished for the 2016 season and Giesbrecht is confident in his new roster.
“If a talented player comes along and is good enough, we’ll find room,” he said. “But if we don’t, I’m content with what my team will be for next year. We’re going to be a tough team.”