Print Edition: October 17, 2012
Two years ago when the UFV women’s soccer team won Bronze at the CIS National championships it was a precedent, the beginning of a new chapter for UFV varsity. Last year, while the Cascades began the season with a promising four wins, they quickly entered a bewildering tailspin which resulted in the team missing the playoffs entirely.
This year, coach Rob Giesbrecht and team promised themselves things would be different. It’s a promise taped to the door of Giesbrecht’s office, a promise found in the team binder of each player, a promise agreed upon by the team during a pre-season trip to Portland. It’s a promise consisting of five commitments: to have the best goals-against-average in Canada West, to be undefeated at home, to host a Canada West playoff game, to win a CIS National Championship and to maintain a team GPA of more than 3.0.
Coach Giesbrecht is aware of the heights that these targets aspire to; still, with only two games left in the season, he and his team have already posted a significantly better record than last year. “We’ve lost a home game which was tough,” he said about his team’s commitments, “but we still have a fantastic goals-against record; we still have the potential of hosting a home playoff game; we’re still in the running for a national championship … I think it’s a great document for us to have … [The women] see it every day and they’re reminded of the ambitions that we have as a group. They’re reminded of what the cost is to get to that.”
Team-building is also an important part of the Cascades’ commitment, something that Giesbrecht feels has been integral to the women’s success. “Well,” he explained, “I always find that if you get a group of athletes together that have common vision, common purpose and they enjoy spending time together, then you get a nice synergy amongst the group. Because we go into battles, we go into battles on the weekends against these Canada West opponents, and when you’re in the trenches in these battles and you care about the person next to you in the trenches, you’ll go that extra yard for them, you’ll do whatever it takes for them. And that’s the thing we’ve tried to create among our team … we’ve really focused on creating a positive team environment.”
The team has already outscored last year’s squad by a score of 23-13, and while these impressive numbers are partially the result of several new teams to the Canada West division, they are also the product of a younger, hungrier Cascades side. Fullback Donna Pinning has five goals this season, while the always-dangerous Carly Neeson has four from her position as striker. Coach Giesbrecht has been especially impressed with Neeson’s ability so far. “I think Carly Neeson’s a big reason for [the difference in scoring],” he said. “Not only is she creating goals and scoring goals in the play, but four times this year she’s been brought down in the box and we’ve scored on the penalty kick. So Carly Neeson’s maturation from a second-year player to a third-year player is pivotal for us hitting our offensive statistics this year.”
The women’s achievements are even more remarkable considering team captain Chelsea Steffen and defensive stalwart McKenzie Shopland suffered season-ending injuries in August.
This weekend the Cascades take on TWU and UBC at home at the Chilliwack Exhibition Field. These two games will be an important test for the team as they seek to improve their position in the Canada West going into the playoffs. The women have already guaranteed themselves a spot in the post-season, but this weekend will determine whether they meet their third goal for the season: to host a playoff game.