- BC Games
Spartans open season at number one
“Every time we start a season, it is an opportunity to write a new story,” explained head coach Graham Roxburgh.
“We have similar cast members and some new cast members so it will be a great challenge and we will be up for it.”
The Trinity Western Spartans, who won the CIS national women’s soccer championship last November, open the 2013 season ranked No. 1 in the country.
They return 11 of the 14 players who took part in the CIS gold medal match.
“We return so many of our good core and yet there are some pieces that we lost that are going to need to be replaced and retooled,” Roxburgh said.
One of the biggest changes for the squad is in goal where after five seasons — and three national titles — Trinity Western will have a new starting goalkeeper following the graduation of Kristen Funk.
“Whoever is playing has big shoes to fill but we feel like we are pretty solid in that position.”
The likely candidates are returnee Bailey Williams-Kapels and transfer Rachel Bedek, who spent the past four seasons with the Carleton Ravens, before moving west for her final season.
The Spartans also lost a pair of key attacking outside backs in Jilian Dietrich and Nikki Bryne. But that just opens the door for others to take on more prominent roles.
“We feel like we have some players ready to step into new roles,” Roxburgh said.
“We are going to be a different team but we are going to be as strong and attack minded as we have been in the past.”
The team should be aided by the return of a trio of players who are coming back off of knee injuries: Sarah-Kim Bergeron, Nikki Wright and Jenna Di Nunzio.
“Those three players, if healthy, give us so many attacking options,” the coach said.
Last season’s leading scorer, Canada West rookie of the year Krista Gommeringer (13 goals, 22 points in 12 games) is back and should play a big role in the Spartan offence.
The team may be hard pressed to duplicate last season’s dominant performance. They outscored their foes 44-4 in 12 Canada West league games and then went 6-0 in the post-season, scoring 10 times and only conceding a pair of goals.
Roxburgh knows that the competition in the Canada West has only gotten tougher and that his team will once again have a target on their backs.
“We are going to have to face that we are the reigning champions and people want to knock us off,” he said.
But ultimately, the season will not be deemed a success or failure based on whether or not the team captured another CIS banner.
“We have never measured national championships as the ultimate (definition) of success, or pinnacle,” Roxburgh said.
It is always more than the soccer, it is the things we do away from the field, the unity we try to create within our program, the desire to be successful in all things, on and off the field, that would be the litmus test or the measure of success.
“And then obviously to see young players come into our program and grow as previous players have done, that is a success as well.”
The Spartans, who started their training camp in Guatemala last month, wrapped up the preseason on Saturday with a 3-1 home loss to the Western Washington Vikings. It was Trinity Western’s only loss in six exhibition games (5-1-0).
The team opens the Canada West regular season on Saturday (Sept. 7) when they travel to Vancouver to face the No. 10 UBC Thunderbirds. The Spartans first home game at Rogers Field is on Sept. 13 versus the Victoria Vikes.