WolfPack women grab fourth at soccer nationals

Adam Williams, Sports Editor Ω

The WolfPack women’s soccer team came back from the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Nationals in Prince Edward Island with their second consecutive fourth place finish last week.

The WolfPack lost to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks of Edmonton, Alta. in the bronze medal final by a score of 1-0.

It was an up and down week for the WolfPack, who were forced to play under less than ideal circumstances. The team arrived in Charlottetown at 3:30 a.m. on Nov. 6, after almost 24 hours of travel, which involved three flights and a two and a half hour bus ride. The team was understandably tired when their first game against the Indiennes d’Ahuntsic kicked-off at 10:00 a.m on Nov. 7.

“We went out and played, did well for the first 60 minutes and then we started to fade,” said head coach Tom McManus. “At about 63 minutes we hit the wall and they scored three goals within nine minutes. So there was nothing we could do about that, I was putting fresh players in hoping to get fresh legs but it just didn’t work.”

The ‘Pack went on to lose by a final score of 4-0 and had their hopes of a gold medal dashed. They later won in the bronze quarterfinal against the Mount Saint Vincent University Mystics by a score of 1-0 and defeated the Cégep Garneau Élans, the best team in the country, by a score of 4-0 in the bronze semifinal.

“The coach [of the Indiennes d’Ahuntsic] came up to me after we played Garneau, shook his head and said, ‘Boy, I’m glad we got you when you were tired, that was phenomenal,’” McManus said. “Like I said, I’ve never seen anyone play Garneau like that, or beat Garneau by that many goals. Every coach there was just amazed by how we did.”

Dreams of a podium finish were not to come true either, as the WolfPack were defeated in the bronze medal game by the NAIT Ooks on Nov. 10. NAIT scored just nine minutes into the game and spent the rest of the match sending the ball deep or out of bounds. The situation was made more difficult by winds blowing across the field, at times topping 80 kilometres per hour.

For Alanna Bekkering, it was disappointing to come home with another fourth-place finish this year, regardless of the individual honours she received. Bekkering and teammate Blair MacKay were both named CCAA All-Canadian athletes. In a previous interview with The Omega, Bekkering cited All-Canadian honours as one of the last individual accomplishments she hoped to achieve in her varsity career.

“It was really cool,” Bekkering said. “It’s an awesome honour, especially with the amount of talent that’s on our team.”

Bekkering and MacKay are close friends off the field and sharing the experience of being named All-Canadians gave the award special significance.

“That was the most exciting moment, it was more exciting than me actually getting called up there,” Bekkering said. “[Blair] was so deserving of it and what an awesome way to go out in your fifth year.”

The season is now officially over for the WolfPack, but they will now begin their work off the field in preparation for next season. The team will begin workouts and a running program in mid-January and McManus will work to incorporate indoor practices and exhibition matches as the year wears on.

“I’m looking to really get this program going 10 months of the year, 11 months of the year,” McManus said. “We want to continue to pump and have our program be one of the best around.”

McManus is already in the thick of recruiting players for the next season and says no roster spot is guaranteed. As was the case this year, players will earn their roster spots based on who comes to tryouts the most prepared and in the best shape, even veterans won’t be guaranteed to play.

The WolfPack will have a strong contingent of returning players. McManus will look to replace the McAuley sisters and Blair MacKay, but in theory the team should continue their dominance of the PACWEST conference. Bekkering and the rest of the returning squad hope to get another shot at a national championship moving forward and the sting of this year’s result is sure to keep them motivated.

“Fourth place in Canada is still awesome,” Bekkering said, “but I know that all of us were hoping for a medal.”