A true underdog story
The U of R women’s soccer team hopes to break records this season
Some could argue the 2010 campaign was a successful one for the University of Regina Cougar women’s soccer team. But try telling that to the players.
The team finished last season with a 5-7-2 record, setting program records for both wins and points. With numerous players back from last season, the immediate future looks bright for the squad, especially with veteran goaltender Michelle Anderson returning for another season.
“I think it is very important [to have veteran presence] in goal. Michelle is a great example of that,” said Cougars head coach Bob Maltman. “First of all, it’s not all about Michelle. We have also got some very good players on our squad now who give us some depth. Michelle may not play in net for a game or two – we can give our other goalie a chance to play because Michelle has got multiple talents besides just playing in net.”
Anderson showed her veteran composure after the team went down 1-0 early in its first regular-season contest Sept. 10 against the University of Victoria Vikes. Regina ended up finishing the game tied at one thanks to a goal by midfielder Tayler Firth.
“In the first half of our game against Victoria, we were a little bit fragile for maybe 10 or 15 minutes after Victoria scored the first goal and Michelle came up big and made a couple of key saves,” Maltman said. “That is really the job of the goalkeeper, to be able to settle the ship for the team and lead by example.”
Although Anderson only let one goal in all game, Maltman believes it wasn’t her most challenging game to play.
“Realistically [on Sept. 10], Michelle had several shots to save, but there was a number of them that were relatively easy for her,” he said. “There was a few in the first half that were problematic, but we kept the bulk of them far enough from the edge of the box and [there was] enough pressure around the player that they were either cracking them over the bar or they were at an odd angle.”
With Anderson solid in net, other players stepped up and the coach took notice.
“I also thought Sarah Novak had an outstanding game and those are our two captains – Anderson and Novak,” Maltman said. “They were selected for not only their mannerism and their attitudes off the field, but the support they give their teammates and the way they work together. They both play off of each other’s strengths.”
With such a demanding schedule Maltman, recognizes the importance of fitness on his team, which he believes is the product of many people working together.
“We are a very physically fit team. which is a credit to the players and to the staff at the Dr. Paul Schwann Centre and to Scott Anderson, who does all of our physio work to keep our players on an even keel,” Maltman said. “A fundamental strength of our squad is really the support we have. We start work in January every year. Although we are not as fit as we need to be, we are about 90 per cent there and we will continue to do work throughout the season.”
Maltman, along with assistant coach Lara Guzik, work together in all aspects of the team.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be involved with a group of players like this,” Maltman said. “Guzik and myself have been together [for a number of years] now as a staff and I put a lot of faith in her and what she does as a co-coach. It is nice to have the ability to use each other as soundboards.”
Last season may have been impressive, but this year’s Cougar squad wants to make this season even better.
“We always set goals. We set goals [at the] beginning of February. [When it comes to wins], we have an eight-plus sort of idea as a goal. We feel as though we have a good team with a lot of flexibility and, because of the depth of the squad and being able to change players around, we feel we have a very good chance of winning more games than we did last year,” Maltman said. “We have set ourselves a standard. We have a good chance and a good opportunity to win several games this year, but it’s going to be tough. There is not a team here that is really the weak sister of the league.”
According to a Canada West pre-season coaches’ poll, it seems as though Regina is highly underestimated.
“We were ranked ninth [out of 10 teams] and that’s fine,” Maltman said. “We will be considered as maybe the underdog and not quite good enough in their minds, but as long as we keep progressing and doing what we do in the pitch, well then we are proud of what our team is able to achieve.”
With the talent to achieve something special this year, Maltman believes spectators are should start showing up.
“People are missing a great product in the pitch,” Maltman said. “More people should watch a team that is very proud to represent themselves and the university. It would be nice to see all of the kids come out and watch us play and bring all of the noise they can. It is a great deal for students and you get two hours of entertainment. It’s a pretty-cheap dollar value.
“I think our product now justifies why they should come out and help cheer us on and maybe inspire us a little bit more when we are down or when we are pushing for that second goal. That ‘12th man’, so to speak, puts us into a win instead of a tie.”
It is truly surprising how few fans show up to games, something that has Maltman still scratching his head.
“I don’t understand it as a coach, It perplexes me at times. I have been here for five years, but we can’t get people out to watch a game. Other coaches on our campus say the same thing. [These are] students who are sitting in the same classroom. It would be nice to get that support and recognize their successes,” he said. “Just come out and enjoy the experience. At college games, they can get 10,000 fans, while we can barely get 150. I find it ironic but maybe the word will spread now.”
With records set to be broken and six home games left in the regular season, there is no excuse for fans to miss out.
The women’s soccer team was back in action on Sept. 11 in a game against the visiting Fraser Valley Cascades. The Cascades scored first when Danika Snook was able to sneak one past Anderson 15 minutes into the contest. Regina was able to respond eight minutes later when Jaydee McFee got her first goal as a Cougar. Just four minutes into the second half of regulation, Fraser Valley player Carly Neeson was able to take advantage of some sloppy play and fired a shot top shelf. Neeson’s goal would serve as the eventual game winner in a 2-1 affair, dropping the Cougars record to 0-1-1. Fraser Valley remains perfect at 2-0-0.
Cougar women’s soccer home schedule
(All home games to be played at the U of R Field at 12 p.m.)
Sept. 24 – Regina vs. Manitoba
Sept. 25 – Regina vs. Manitoba
Oct. 1 – Regina vs. Trinity Western
Oct. 2 – Regina vs. UBC
Oct. 22 – Regina vs. Lethbridge
Oct. 23 – Regina vs. Calgary