Following their thrilling penalty kick victory over the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on Oct. 28, the Cougars women’s soccer team advanced to the Canada West final four for the first time in program history.
They had their work cut out for them, however, as their next test came in the form of the 11-1 Trinity Western Spartans.
“The players are looking forward to the challenge,” said Cougars head coach Bob Maltman before the match. “We know it’s going to be a great opportunity to see where we’re at.”
In their only previous meeting this season on Sept. 28, the Cougars fell 3-0 to the Spartans.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, their second encounter wouldn’t be much different.
While neither team scored in the first 45 minutes, Trinity Western held an 11-1 advantage in shot attempts going into the half.
Second-half goals from Trinity Western’s Natalie Boyd and Alicia Tesan sealed the 2-0 win for the Spartans, who now move on to face the University of Victoria Vikes for the Canada West Championship.
The Cougars had a shot at redemption on Saturday, when they faced off against the UBC Thunderbirds with third place on the line.
Despite a hard-fought game on the part of the Cougars, the Thunderbirds scored one early and then went into defensive mode to capture bronze.
Although the Cougars fell short of their ultimate goal, they can’t be disappointed with the strides made during the 2012 season.
“I think no matter what, whether we go in and play our hardest and don’t even come up with a win, we still have had so much success this season that at the end of the day we can just be very proud of ourselves,” said Cougars leading scorer Meagan Cormier, before the game against Trinity Western.
Cormier finished her fourth year of eligibility with eight goals and five assists for 21 total points – a Cougars single season record.
“Personally, I’m very proud of myself as well, but I couldn’t have done it without any of these girls,” Cormier said. “The past four years that I’ve been here we’ve been working so hard, and I think just personally having the season that I’ve had is just that extra icing on the cake of the season that we’ve had as a team.”
The hard work put in over the years has started to pay off for a program that has been waiting a long time.
“I think this year we just had an immense step forward, and it just feels awesome not only to represent our team, but to represent the school and our community,” Cormier said. “To see all the other athletes out here supporting us, and all the fans that we had, it just felt awesome.”
Coach Maltman agreed that this season could represent a turning point in the U of R women’s soccer program.
“There’s been a lot of other things that have been going on over the last two or three years that have just gradually sort of added small pieces to the puzzle,” he said. “Now we have a picture where we have a team that’s got a lot of self-belief.”
“I think there’s a lot of very positive memories and experiences that this team has accumulated over this season.” – Bob Maltman
The trip to the final four lends the program a sense of legitimacy that could help in the recruitment of future players.
“Now we’re getting people that are looking at the program and going, ‘You know, for a smaller school, they seem to have a lot of facility venues; they’ve got a lot of scholarship opportunities. It looks like the program has sort of turned the corner,’” Maltman said. “I feel that the players who want to come here now are genuinely serious about coming to a high quality program. They’re genuinely serious about competing within a squad that’s very motivated to excel, and that’s the kind of players that I’m looking for.”
Though the 2012 season is now officially over for Cougars soccer, it’s a season that none involved are likely to forget anytime soon.
“I think there’s a lot of very positive memories and experiences that this team has accumulated over this season,” Maltman said, noting the penalty-kick victory over the U of S as just one of many.
The moment was made all the more special by the hundreds of spectators who braved the cold to cheer on the team.
“That was phenomenal. To see that many kids come out here, and the warmth that they had for the success that this group of women had, and to sit out here and shiver for two-and-a-half hours was absolutely top-notch, world-class stuff,” Maltman said. “It was a tremendous reward for those young women of ours that have been very proud of who they are … For them to have that success, as a coach, it’s a real fantastic moment."
Personal: Fourth-year forward
Notable: Scored eight goals and five assists for a total of 13 points in 12 games this season. Was named Canada West Female Athlete of the Week on Sept. 18 after her five-point performance (4g, 1a) where she set a Cougars record for most points in a single game. Cormier also lead the Canada West in shots and shots-per-game this season, and set a Cougars record for most points in a single season.
Personal: Third-year goalkeeper
Notable: Despite only starting in three Canada West contests prior to the 2012-13 season, Possberg played in nine out of 12 games for the Cougars and registered a 7-2-0 record. She placed second in Canada West in save percentage (.885) and shutouts per game (.56) and also posted five shutouts in nine games this season.
Personal: Fifth-year defenceman
Notable: In her final year as a member of the Cougars, Novak played in 10 out of a possible 12 games for Regina. Novak has played in a total of 63 regular season games and two playoff games for the Cougars, registering 23 shots and one assist. Novak will leave the Cougars after the team posted the best record of her career 9-5-1 and advancing to the Canada West Final Four.
Personal: Sixth-year Coach
Notable: Maltman has seen the trials and triumphs of the Cougars soccer team since 2001 when he was the assistant coach during the team’s inaugural season. After taking a break from the Cougars to explore both amateur and professional coaching options, Maltman returned to the team in May 2007. The 2012-13 season was the first time that the team has made the playoffs under the direction of Maltman and the second time in program history – the team previously reached the playoffs in 2006.
Photo courtesy Olivia Mason