Women’s soccer is returning after graduating eight players to pursue their ultimate goal: “do what has never been done before.”
Massive roster changes were in order after last year’s star-studded team lost eight players, and six were AUS All-Stars at some point throughout their careers. Head Coach John Crossland recruited seven new players—six of whom are going into their first year of university.
“Right now we are at the young end of timing,” said Crossland, referring to the cyclical patterns that occur in university sport rosters. “We have a lot of teaching to do.”
The first year recruits are from all over Canada and play vital positions where strength has been lost after last year; they include keeper Brynn Nash (SK), fullback Emily DeGrace (NB), mid-fielders MJ Miller (NFLD) and Jesse Bellamy (ON) and strikers Emma King-Jesso (NS) and Mackenzie Sinclair (NS).
This is not to forget the versatile midfielder Rachael Burton. After playing two years in the NCAA—one with her older sister Julia—she is returning to Canada to play for the Varsity Reds. She will be joining her younger sister, 3rd year fullback Emily, for the 2017-2018 season. Coach Crossland said that with such a young squad, he is excited to see “[Rachael’s] experience help to lead the team.”
Despite having a 12 athletes in their first or second year, Crossland says that this does not change their ultimate goal.
“The players may change, but our goal always remains the same: to do what has never been done before.”
UNB women’s soccer has struggled to make a conference final in the past. Of the last three years, only once have they competed for the title; that season, 2014/2015, the team fell to Memorial University in the final 3 – 1. The 2017/18 squad wants nothing less than to better that record by winning a conference title. If they earn the title and the chance to compete at nationals, they will be in reach of even larger ambitions.
“It has been about 10 years since a team from the AUS has won a game at nationals,” said Crossland. “We would like to change that.”
In addition to the intense training camp to rally the team together and test out what athlete combinations have the best on-field chemistry, they will have three exhibition matches to try their skills against some of the best teams in the country. Their Quebec exhibition tour includes UQAM, Concordia and Laval with only a day separating each game. Each of those teams plays in the highly competitive RSEQ conference and will prove to be a challenge for the Varsity Reds. UQAM and Concordia placed fourth and sixth in the conference respectively; Laval not only placed first in the conference, but won the USport National Championship last year.
“It’s nice to play competition we don’t see at home; it’s also nice to see the best.”
Regardless of the outcome, Crossland believes that it will be a great experience for the team; it will give them a chance to test out game strategy against the best in the nation. It will also give the team a chance to bond and play together before the regular season starts.
The new team dynamic is going to give the girls a chance to compete for spots. Crossland says that this friendly competition can be key to lifting the whole team to another level that, regularly, would be untouched.
“Any day, anyone can beat anyone,” said Crossland; and the team is ready for those days.
The women start their season on the road in Nova Scotia playing Acadia at 5 p.m. on Sept. 8 and Dalhousie at 3 p.m. on Sept. 9. Their home opener is on Sept. 16 at 1 p.m against Cape Breton University. All Varsity Reds away games can be found at AUStv.ca.