(FREDERICTON, NB) Coach Jon Crossland thinks he’s fixed a problem.
Last season, Crossland’s UNB Varsity Reds women’s soccer team led the country, with the fewest goals against in the CIS.
But, Crossland’s team struggled on offence, scoring just 23 goals in 13 games.
“We’ll see, we feel good,” says Crossland, whose team scored 13 goals in just three pre-season games, including 10 in one match.
“Our attacking players, that for whatever reason were snake-bitten last year, have done well for us in the pre-season… and hopefully that will continue,” says Crossland. “I think we’re a confident group defensively and that confidence will help us going forward as well.”
The Varsity Reds open the Atlantic University Sport season on Saturday, in Sydney, against the Cape Breton University Capers. Game time is 1:00PM.
“I’m feeling very excited, and I’m anxious to get started,” says fifth year fullback Hayley Gates(Bridgewater, NS). “Our off-season is very long, so it’s always good when we come back and play together as a team again.”
The Varsity Reds went 6-2-5 last season, and lost in the AUS quarter-finals.
The sting of that loss is something Gates and other veterans still feel.
She says the team has high expectations for this year.
“This is our year to win our first AUS banner,” she says. “It’s been a goal we’ve set for ourselves every year, but this my last year to get it done.”
“It definitely drives our core group, this is their last kick at the can,” says Crossland. “There’s no doubt, we were disappointed with the result last season.”
Gates is one of four fifth-year seniors on the Varsity Reds.
Fullback Laura McNicholas(Doncaster, UK), midfielder Lucy Parkin(Sheffield, UK), and keeper Sami Jo Bell(East Dover, NS) are also playing out their eligibility.
They’re joined by seven fourth year players.
Crossland is excited by the mix of young and veteran talent on his roster.
As just one example, he points to midfielder Charlotte Sampson(Vancouver, BC), who missed all of last season after being injured in training camp.
“She missed all of last year, when she broke her leg in the pre-season,” says Crossland. “Just the way the dominos have fallen, she’s going to have a large role to play in our midfield here, to start.”
Crossland says midfielder Nicola Small is another player who has shown well in pre-season play, but believes he’s got 27 more than capable players.
“We’ve got good players in every spot, whether they’re first, second, third, fourth or fifth year players.”
“I think our biggest challenge will be thriving in the face of adversity,” says Gates. “There could be games where we may not play our best, individually or as a team, but it will be important for us to learn from our mistakes.”
“Our season is short,” says Gates. “Being able to bounce back quickly will be crucial.”
After Saturday’s game in Sydney, the Varsity Reds visit St. FX, on Sunday, in a re-match of last year’s AUS quarter-final.
UNB’s home opener is Saturday, September 17th, at 1:00PM, against the Memorial University Sea Hawks, at BMO Centre.