Wallace making his presence felt in young season

Former WolfPack star returns to TRU after two years in the NCAA

Adam Williams, Sports Editor Ω

It’s not every day that a new player becomes a team’s captain, but Justin Wallace isn’t just any player.

Justin Wallace. Photo courtesy of TRU Athletics

Justin Wallace. Photo courtesy of TRU Athletics

Wallace, son of the men’s soccer team’s co-head coach Sean Wallace, is back with the WolfPack for the 2013 season. He played for the NCAA’s Simon Fraser University Clan in 2011 and 2012, helping to lead the team to the Division 2 quarterfinals in Evans, Georgia in 2012.

This will be Justin’s second season as a member of the ’Pack; he last played for the team in 2010, when he was named the rookie of the year by the Pacific Western Athletic Association.

It was a difficult decision for Justin to leave SFU, but so far the transition has served him well.

“I was talking my dad and I followed the team a lot last year,” he said. “The team, with the type of players they had, was really exciting and I wanted to be a part of it. I think being able to be coached by my dad and play with my brother and a lot of close friends from high school was something I really wanted to pursue.”

Wallace is an offensive-minded forward that should give TRU an added punch in their opponent’s ends this season. Following his award-winning year with the WolfPack, he was named the NCAA’s newcomer of the year in 2011.

In 22 games with the Clan last season he amassed 27 points, including 10 goals, and was second on the team in scoring.

He had two goals and two assists in the WolfPack’s three preseason games and added another goal and an assist on home-opening weekend, as the WolfPack locked up victories over the Capilano University Blues, 2-1, and the Vancouver Island University Mariners, 4-2.

“I think the calibre of player he’s become — after leaving TRU and going to SFU for two years — definitely strengthens our team and adds a very offensive flare to the already offensive-minded players we have,” Sean said before the weekend’s matches.

Justin brings an element of leadership to the WolfPack as well. He will be one of the team’s four captains this season, along with Ashley Raynes, Corey Wallis and Braeden Burrows; Burrows is a returning member of the team this season as well; he spent last season recovering from a knee injury.

“His biggest thing is he’s matured as a player,” Sean said, of Justin. “You come out of high school and you’re all wide-eyed and looking to take it all in and think you can beat everybody. He had success here in his first year . . . he’s just grown as a player, matured to the point where he knows when he should be taking on the game and when he should sit back and sort of be a part of the overall play of the team.”

Sean said Justin’s years in the NCAA served him well, he benefited from the depth of the players around him and the quality of training he received. Now back at TRU, he will be a cornerstone of the offence in this, his fourth year of eligibility.

“His job . . . is to make changes in the game,” Sean said. “I guess what I’ve seen over the last couple years is he’s become a game-changer and really lives up to that. Big time games he really comes to the forefront.”

For Justin, it was time to make a change after spending two seasons with SFU. Coming home to play at TRU for his dad and with his brother — Nolan Wallace, the 2012 Pacific Western Athletics Association rookie of the year — was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“It’s really exciting,” Justin said. “It’s special, it’s not too often you get to play for your dad and [with] your brother at the same time. I love playing for my dad and John [Antulov] as well. . . .

“Playing with Nolan is a lot of fun, we get into it in practice sometimes and it’s that sort of competitive sibling rivalry we have going on which makes the team better and makes each other better.”

With the transition made, his focus now turns to the year ahead and helping the WolfPack get back to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national championship for the first time since they hosted in 2008.

Early signs are the WolfPack will be stronger offensively this year, which should help them improve on their bronze medal finish last season.

“If we play well every weekend and we play to our strengths and our game plan then I think we’re going to be successful week in and week out.”