Posted on: August 24, 2017
The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack are heading north in search of a pair of victories to open up the Canada West men’s soccer season
The ‘Pack will visit Prince George to take on the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves in a pair of matches Saturday and Sunday (Aug 26-27).
This will mark the second meeting of the year between the two teams. UNBC and Thompson Rivers played to a 2-2 tie in the ‘Pack’s first exhibition match of the campaign. That match was played August 10th in Calgary.
That was the start of a preseason where the WolfPack went undefeated—winning three times and tying four other matches.
“We were really happy with the results but happier with the play of the guys,” says TRU coach John Antulov. “There was a lot of good competition among the guys. Now we have to worry about the regular season. UNBC will be a tough challenge for us.”
Antulov got a lot of players into game action in the exhibition season. That was something he thought was a good thing. “The nice thing was there wasn’t a drop in play. We put in a lot of the young kids or those who haven’t played a lot. The level of player we have brought in this year is the best since I have been here as head coach. The level of competition has been tough. The guys need to know that they have to hit the field prepared or they won’t get much playing time.”
And as a coach, that is something Antulov and his staff are relishing right now. “We have 32 players on the roster and we can only take 22 to Prince George. There is going to be some good players who won’t make the trip. Those are the types of decisions we want to have to make as our program advances in credibility.”
Antulov says the hard work he has done recruiting is paying off with the talent level wanting to don a TRU uniform. “It is not just because of nationals. I think our program was needing to take this big step forward regardless. Having nationals is great but if we want to challenge we need quality players. It has been good for our young players to see these others and as a result, raise their skill level.”
The exhibition season saw the team get balanced scoring. In the past few years, TRU has relied upon the likes of two time Canada West all-star and U Sport Academic All-Canadian Ryan Glanville (5th year, Williams Lake, BC), Mitchell Popadynetz (4th year, Nelson, BC) and Justin Donaldson (3rd year, Kamloops, BC) for their scoring.
“We played a lot of players. Obviously Ryan and Justin weren’t playing the 90 minutes that they are used to,” says Antulov. “It was good to see the likes of James Fraser (Penticton, BC) and Jan Pirretas Glasmacher (Barcelona, Spain) and Antoli Leveille (Winnipeg, MB) come in and score some goals. And Jason Staiger (Agassiz, BC) has come in really fit and contributed. It bodes well for tough games during the season that we can rely on others to get our offense going.”
The WolfPack are ranked seventh in the Canada West preseason poll. Antulov is taking that in stride as they enter the campaign. “We haven’t really done anything. We were close last year but we haven’t stepped over the threshold (of getting into the playoffs). A lot of people don’t know what we have as players here. At the end of the day we have to go out and prove it. I feel comfortable that we have improved and will be a tough team to play against.”
In regards to their opponents this weekend, the WolfPack coach has this assessment: “These will be tough battles. Steve Simonson has done an absolutely fantastic job since he took over that group two years ago. They have a belief and a will to succeed. He has built their confidence. We haven’t proven ourselves yet either. It will be a battle between two solid programs. There will be no easy games in Canada West again this year.”
Both matches have 1 pm start times. Unfortunately, technical difficulties with the webcasting equipment at UNBC will prevent them from being webcast.
After these matches, Thompson Rivers returns home to host the University of Victoria Vikes and the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in back to back matches September 2nd and 3rd at Hillside Stadium. Saturday’s September 2nd match has a 1 pm kick off. Sunday September 3rd match is at 2 pm.
THROW IN’S: The teams met twice in regular season play last year. Both the matches were in Kamloops where the Timberwolves won the opening match 3-2 but TRU rallied for a 3-0 victory the next day.
Antulov on his leadership group led by the likes of Glanville, Popadynetz, Donaldson, Finlay McPhie (Vernon, BC) and Colton Walker (Sicamous, BC): “Colton has been a fantastic leader. He is a fifth year senior and is really taking charge. But we have also brought in players like like Josh Banton (1st year, London, England) who is a very vocal type player, Tony Paiero (1st year, North Vancouver, BC) who is a very vocal older type player. Brandon Mendez (5th year, Calgary, AB), Alan Connor (Kamloops, BC)…they have all played at high levels and provide that leadership.”