With a current record of one win and seven losses, the WolfPack women’s soccer team has gone through what is possibly, and hopefully, the hardest part of their season.
Head coach Kelly Shantz referred to it as “going through murderer’s row.” The WolfPack women have faced teams like the University of Calgary Dinos (who currently sit at the top of the CIS standings in their division) and other top-tier teams to start off the season.
However, it is the “revamp” of the team that has, by and large, been the main factor in how the team is performing so far this season.
Coming off a summer break with an almost entirely different team and coaching staff has forced the team to approach this season with a focus on relationship building and skills development, Shantz said.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t be trying to put points on the board.
Players in the CIS are eligible to play for five years. At the end of the 2015-16 season, that stipulation took six starting players out of the lineup. Three more key players left for other institutions, despite being eligible to play, which left the team with only one fourth-year player with the kind of experience that can propel a team.
With so many freshmen starting on the team at once, the team is in a tough place when facing more experienced squads who have the advantage of having played together for a number of seasons.
Another aspect of the team’s revamp is the change of coaching staff. Previous coach Tom McManus had developed the team and led the women’s soccer team through the transition from PACWEST to CIS. They pushed through a tough first season in the CIS division then brought it back to qualify for the playoffs the next year.
Shantz, who came in to coach the team after McManus was fired last year, explained that coming into his new role this season was “the perfect storm” for a lot of reasons.
“We lost nine starters to grad, losing their eligibility or transferring to UBC or UBCO. Factor in three or four more players who were burnt out and ready to move on, three or four more who didn’t think they could live up to commitments… it doesn’t take long to get to losing 17 or 18 of last year’s 25 players,” Shantz said.
That kind of loss of roster completely changed the way the new coaching staff had to approach the season, Shantz said.
“We now have a whole new coaching crew putting in their systems, and a bunch of kids trying to learn it on the fly. We’ve had to start from a base level that most teams and us, hopefully, never again will have to start from,” Shantz said.
Coaching staff has developed a three-year plan, considering the extreme changes to the team’s dynamic to get back on track. With so many freshmen coming into the program in the next two years, Shantz believes the team will start to bear fruit in the third year.
Although the CIS is a more difficult league to play in, coaching staff thinks it was the right move to move up, and despite their losses in their division, they plan on sticking to it.