In their 30th season of Canada West competition, the University of Calgary women’s soccer team is looking to make a big impact on the pitch as they move into the playoffs on Saturday, Oct. 26. This year brought forth a new Nike sponsorship, some fresh new faces and most importantly a new head coach.
The Dinos announced that Trinity Western alumni Troye Flannery would be their new head coach in April, 2013. Managing a team in a new environment can be quite difficult, but Flannery’s extensive coaching resume as a director of the South West Soccer Association and former technical director for soccer at the National Sports Development makes him more than qualified for the job.
“It has been a fantastic and positive experience,” said Flannery, when asked about his experience as coach this year. “I’m dealing with a very successful and enticing group of talented players with an athletic department that has been very supportive as we look to extend our season by a couple more weeks.”
After a disappointing season last year — missing the playoffs by one point — the Dinos have changed a lot in just one off-season of hard training.
Getting off to one of their best starts by winning six of their first seven games, the Dinos scored a whopping 29 goals and only conceded six. The women were fired up with amazing performances against the University of Winnipeg Wesmen, beating them by a score of 11–0 and following up with a 7–0 win against the University of Regina Cougars.
The next few games would not go according to plan however, as the Dinos lost their focus and drive that they had at the beginning of the season. The Dinos would fall short and lose four of their next five games.
With uncharacteristic losses to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and Trinity Western Spartans, the Dinos looked to refocus, yet it seemed that something was missing. In the upcoming weeks they would fall short in some close affairs that would ultimately affect their playoff position by setting up a tougher match against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
Flannery has certainly brought a new sense of integration onto the pitch however, asking his athletes to focus on the three Ps: personality, purpose and passion.
“I needed to change the culture and always ask more of these girls to not be content with just existing, but to continue pursuing their goals in this new attractive, attacking soccer program,” said Flannery. “If you’re going to be successful you have to be able to react to adversity and this very well-balanced team allows us to do that.”
The second half of the season has not gone as expected and as the playoffs are fast approaching, the Dinos took this week to push forward from their last winning performance and use that as motivation. Coming off a much needed 4–1 victory on Saturday against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, the Dinos are looking to take that momentum into the playoffs and fight for a spot in the Canada West finals.
Led by the dynamic duo of leading scorer Nikki Furukawa — who has potted 8 goals in her second year — and veteran fifth-year player, Tessa Miller, the Dinos looked like a team primed for a championship season. However, getting into some trouble the second half of the season has perhaps set back their confidence.
“We understood that the second half of our season had some tougher games, but we take from those losses a greater appreciation that we are right with some of the top teams in the league,” said Miller. “We only lost to Trinity Western, the previous national champions by a score of 1–0, so we can’t think of ourselves as the underdogs anymore.”
As a leader on the team, Miller motivates players with her high quality performances and positive attitude. “I put in all my effort and passion towards the game and with that I know my teammates will emulate that on the field,” said Miller.
The Dinos must remain calm and be eager to learn to play better as a team in the coming weeks. Training has gone well this week as the squad looks very dynamic and team oriented, especially with the return of rookie Jordan Smith from the Team Canada Olympic luge program.
“It has been a hard challenge training five days a week and having to miss a few games but I have had such a positive experience especially with Troye as our new head coach. We’re looking to do a lot of great things as a team in the future,” said Smith.
The Dinos will play their first playoff match against a strong UBC Thunderbirds team. The 8–2–4 Thunderbirds could send the Dinos packing prematurely despite their great success.
As the fixture is soon approaching, Flannery is certainly banging the drum before this big matchup.
“We were up 1–0 at halftime against UBC in the regular season and unfortunately we were content with that result at the time,” said Flannery. “There is no excuses that we can’t be a top-four perennial powerhouse. Next weekend, we’ll make a few minor team adjustments but it’s show–time and as a B.C. boy, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
As the saying goes, “the ball is round” and anything can happen in the future for this strong Dinos team looking for glory and success in the Canadian Interuniversity Sports playoffs.