Move to CIS offers WolfPack women’s soccer new opportunities, expectations

Owen Munro, Contributor Ω

Though Abbey McAuley (above) will no longer be with the team, the WolfPack will have plenty of experience in the line-up to smooth the transition to the CIS. - PHOTO BY ADAM WILLIAMS

Though Abbey McAuley (above) will no longer be with the team, the WolfPack will have plenty of experience in the line-up to smooth the transition to the CIS. – PHOTO BY ADAM WILLIAMS

After a great year that included a PACWEST championship and a fourth-place finish at nationals, the women’s WolfPack has a new challenge on the horizon: a move to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s (CIS) Canada West conference. The long awaited move will be in place in time for the 2014 season.

The move from the CCAA to the CIS for TRU’s soccer programs is not a shock to many in the TRU Athletics Department, both programs have been stocking the shelves with CIS-quality players in anticipation of the move. WolfPack women’s coach Tom McManus has been coaching for more than 15 years and his guidance and experience will hopefully ease the transition for both coaches and players.

The move to the CIS not only brings increased exposure, but increased expectations as well. McManus noted that playing a club like the University of Victoria instead of Capilano University would be different, but intriguing.

“Clubs like UBC-Okanagan and Langara are clubs that have improved the past few years,” McManus said. “But it’s not like playing UVic or UBC.”

The transition will also be eased by the presence of veteran players, of which TRU is not lacking. Two-time PACWEST MVP Alanna Bekkering led the league in scoring last season, netting eight goals in 14 games played. The team will also benefit from the sophomore play of hometown players like Kelsey Martin, Courtney Daly and Olivia Rasmussen. Familiarity is important, especially when playing the possession style TRU does.

“Everything is bigger, faster and tougher,” McManus said. “In order to combat this, it’s important to recruit girls who fit that mould.”

McManus believes the move to the CIS will be beneficial with the style of play he employs. Because the competition in the PACWEST isn’t of the same calibre as the CIS, TRU often plays opponents who just play “kick and run” soccer, firing the ball down the field and chasing it. The WolfPack women, on the other hand, play an attacking style but also want to retain the majority of possession. To do so, the fullbacks are active moving forward and provide the width required to possess the ball. McManus hopes the style of play in the CIS will match the WolfPack’s.

McManus knows that moving to the CIS will bring with it a new set of challenges but also feels that the WolfPack's style of play might be better suited to that in the Canada West. - PHOTO BY ADAM WILLIAMS

McManus knows that moving to the CIS will bring with it a new set of challenges but also feels that the WolfPack’s style of play might be better suited to that in the Canada West. – PHOTO BY ADAM WILLIAMS

“By playing with width, we open the field up and that helps in keeping possession,” McManus said. “I’m not interested in playing kick and run.”

On-field, McManus prefers three different formations: the 4-4-2, which is a standard formation throughout all levels of soccer, the 4-5-1, which promotes the width game McManus prefers and the 4-3-3, another traditional formation, most commonly played by clubs like Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The 2013 season will not only be a farewell season to the CCAA for the WolfPack, but a year to strengthen the squad physically and mentally to better handle the rigours of a CIS-quality schedule. McManus and his staff will need to accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses of his roster, while making sure not to overlook the season they have ahead of them in anticipation of September 2014.

Until then, the WolfPack are hoping they can ride the wave of success in the 2013 season.