Heading into the Canada West season, Graham Roxburgh and the Trinity Western Spartans are in an unfamiliar position.
For the first time in 10 years, the championship experience on Roxburgh’s women’s soccer squad is extremely limited.
Just one player — fifth-year goalkeeper Christina Oliverio — has won a national championship and that came in her first year when the Spartans won gold in 2013.
The Spartans — who also won the title in 2012 — would win national silver in both 2014 and 2015 and qualified for nationals in 2016, losing in the quarter-finals. They have also made every national championship tournament since 2009 and are ranked third nationally.
Will that trend continue with a seventh straight trip to nationals?
The talent and potential is there, Roxburgh said, but it is just a matter of the team playing up to their capabilities.
“I think one of the great dangers of a program that has been successful is people want to be a part of it, but aren’t necessarily sure what it takes to get there,” he said.
“If those players feel pressure and respond, then that is a good thing. (If they don’t), then we will fall short of those goals and it will be a disappointing season.”
The Spartans kick off their 2017 Canada West season with a pair of home games at TWU’s Chase Office Field, Friday (Sept. 8) vs. UBC and UVic on Saturday (Sept. 9). Both games kick-off at 5 p.m.
“I think this year is a bit of a mystery,” Roxburgh offered, referencing his team’s 3-1 pre-season, which he described as “some good, some bad and some ugly.”
“The group is going to need to learn how to push themselves because hard work and dedication and discipline and selflessness are the core ingredients that helped us become what we are,” he said.
“The question will be will this group learn to push itself like previous groups have?”
Championship experience aside, there is no denying that the potential to succeed is here with this group.
“We have a mixture of very good athleticism and very good talent,” Roxburgh said.
“But it is going to be that everyone has to commit to working hard. That is probably going to be the tell-tale factor because everyone gets up to play Trinity and so if we are relying on just our reputation and some of our individual skill, then I think we will fall well short of our mark.
“If everyone is willing to push and pull together, then I think there is great opportunity for success.”