Posted on: September 7, 2017
By Marty Hastings -Sports Editor Kamloops This week
(Posted with Permission of Kamloops This Week)
Kelly Shantz has assembled the nucleus of a squad he expects to challenge for a Canada West playoff spot this season.
“We’re definitely better this year, by a wide margin,” said Shantz, the TRU WolfPack women’s soccer team’s second-year head coach.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be setting our sights on stealing points along the way and sneaking into the playoffs. We think it’s realistic.”
The WolfPack will open the regular season with four straight road matches — against the UNBC Timberwolves in Prince George on Friday, the MacEwan Griffins in Edmonton on Sunday, the Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon on Sept. 16 and the Regina Cougars in the Queen City on Sept. 17.
Shantz said the playoffs are realistic, but some critics will say he is living in a fantasy land, one year removed from scoring only four goals and allowing 54 goals in 13 games en route to a 1-12 record.
Detractors will point to a team that isn’t much more experienced this season. All but three players on the roster are in their freshman or sophomore seasons.
But Shantz won’t be too concerned with the doubters. He’s looking forward to fielding a team that is starting to resemble the one he pictured when he took the job prior to the 2016 campaign.
“This will be a Kelly Shantz team in two, three years from now, but the vast majority were recruited, they want to be a part of the program and, if we can get them into the culture, that will make us great again,” he said.
Shantz took over last year from Tom McManus, who was dismissed after leading TRU to its first Canada West playoff berth in 2015.
The roster overhaul that came with the regime change included the addition of eight Kamloops Youth Soccer Association products — second-year players Sasha Sirianni, Cassie Morris and Keenen Degen and rookies Shae Fuoco, Gwen Freeze, Georgia Aldus, Emerson Hansen and Emily Mann.
“My job is to put the best team on the field and to represent the university and bring in the best student-athletes and win,” Shantz said. “But we also have our roots here, and I certainly do, and helping to have a little bit of a hand in developing local talent and getting the ones that are up to it included in the program is super important to me, as well.”
Shantz tinkered with the lineup throughout the pre-season, taking a look at everyone on the roster, which contributed to an 0-5-1 record in exhibition play.
“I absolutely couldn’t have cared less about the record,” Shantz said. “Last weekend in Seattle was the first time we put a shell of our team together.”
The WolfPack tied NCAA Division 2 St. Martin’s 1-1 in Lacey, Wash., on Aug. 26, their best result of the pre-season.
Starting with four straight road matches is just fine by Shantz.
“For a young team, the road is not necessarily a bad place,” he said. “You’re without the pressure of being at home in front of family and friends and KYSA kids. I’m totally OK with it.”
The Pack will play five straight home games to wrap the regular-season slate. If Shantz’s goals are realistic, those tilts in Kamloops will have playoff implications.
“We want to challenge for a playoff spot,” he said. “Once you get into the dance, anything can happen.”
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