Posted on: August 8, 2018
The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack women’s soccer team is hoping to continue on its upward trend in 2018-19. The WolfPack open up their Canada West training camp Wednesday morning (Aug 8) at Hillside Stadium.
Kelly Shantz enters his third season at the helm of the program which am within a whisper of qualifying for the playoffs last season. “There is no illusion that we are still in a rebuild mode. We are optimistic going into the season but the reality is we need to stick to plan and the process and not get hung up on results. Again this season we are very young. It’s tempering and balancing optimism and success with us continuing on a path where we will be a successful team long term. I am really excited about our progress and potential. We will be a stronger program with more depth and more maturity for sure but how that translates into results will be about sticking to our process and putting one foot in front of the other each and every day. That will start day one in training camp in seeing if the girls came in as fit or fitter than when they left in April.”
Shantz pulls no punches when asked where the club sits in the third year of a five year rebuild mode, “ I would have to say we are a little behind the curve from where my own expectations were coming in. I took over this job in May (2015) and started the season two months later so the first season was more of a ‘let’s see what we can do’. I look at this year as really being my second year—with my girls, my program. I am used to having quick success in soccer. turning around programs at the the youth, women and college teams pretty quickly but this is a different fish at USPORTS level. We are in an extremely tough conference where we play top teams every week. I should be unsurprised that we are below my initial expectations, but we have gone through a lot the last two years. The changeover, the number of players we brought in. We came within a game and a day of making the playoffs last season so I don’t think we are that far away. We are building on that this year.”
The WolfPack will field a team with no fifth year players. Natalie Verdiel (defender, Powell River, BC) and Marisa Mendonca (midfield, Powell River, BC) are the team’s senior co captains as they go into their respective fourth years.
“Natalie was a co-captain last year and has been part of our leadership role since I took over, “the coach explains. “Marisa has earned it. She was not in a leadership role at the start of last year and came in and was one of the players who turned her fitness, her focus and her game around. She ripped it up. The girls love her so she is ready to lead and she wants to be successful, wants our whole team to be successful. Rewarding her with a captaincy was a no brainer and she wanted it. Being a captain is a big responsibility at the university level. They are good friends (Natalie and Marisa) and we have been in contact during the off season. I think their expectations for themselves are far higher than I would give them. Nat and Marisa will be terrific leaders both on and off the field as they have a good grip on our new culture and drive and will be a big help to the coaching staff and our younger players.”
Another player Shantz will lean on will be Cassie Morris (Kamloops, BC). The third year defender is poised for a break out year according to the head coach. “She is going to continue to step it up as she has always done. Of all the people who have come through here in the last couple of seasons no one has been under more pressure than Cassie. She has played center-midfield and center-back and has always we have been under pressure. She came in as a true freshman and played 90 minutes in front of the goal and tere is nowhere to hide if the ball goes in the net. Quietly she has continued to show improvement, willingness to learn and get stronger. She is completely unsung in our conference. She is a tremendous defender and I think she is going to step up and people are going to take notice. The people around her will be more skilled and mature as well. Having Natalie back in her fourth year and Danielle Robertson (Courtenay, BC) back for her second year in the nets to work with Cassie, will only help her shine. I think Cassie is a tremendous talent. I love her to death and she is going to have a terrific year.”
The young Pack will be solid net this year. Returning keeper Danielle Robertson is coming off a terrific freshman year and is joined by talented freshman Marissa Young of Calgary. “Danielle was a busy, busy girl last year but handled it with focus and commitment and played some really exceptional soccer. She will be an important piece of the plan this year.”
Shantz spent a lot of time recruiting, not only for this year but for the future. “I was making sure the top clubs in BC and Alberta see me regularly and know we are a serious player. I am just as focused on this year as the next two seasons (2019, 2020). We have only five signed recruits this year and five walk-ons and. I know all of the walk-ons bring talent and athleticism. They want to go to school here and be a part of our program and I expect one or two of them will step up and show they belong here and on the roster. My five signed recruits; I am extremely proud of. All but one will be at training camp (Avery Gilbert, Sa-Hali Secondary, Kamloops, BC had knee surgery and will red shirt). “
The WolfPack have a scrimmage on Friday (Aug 10) vs the Capilano University Blues of North Vancouver, BC. Their first official exhibition match will be the following Friday(Aug 17) when they head to Washington State for three matches beginning against Wenatchee College. The Canada West regular season opens up for the WolfPack on Saturday, September 8th at Hillside Stadium. It is a 1 pm kick off against the MacEwan University Griffins of Edmonton, Alberta.
All of the WolfPack’s league games will be webcast on a pay per view basis on Canada West TV. Go to the TRU website: www.gowolfpack.ca for complete schedule information.