Cougar women’s soccer goes 1-1 in Winnipeg

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Cougars take on University of Winnipeg. Arthur Ward

The team bested Winnipeg 3-1, but lost to Manitoba 0-3

It was a split result for the women’s soccer team this weekend in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Cougars defeated rivals University of Winnipeg 3-1, but came up short against Manitoba 0-3. Ultimately, the result was a mixed bag, although the Cougars continued to build on scoring momentum they built in the pre-season.

To win soccer games, you need to score, and this is something that the 2018 Cougars roster struggled with, averaging only 0.62 goals per game. During the pre-season, veteran Kristen Finlay talked about how the Cougars addressed this issue.

“This year, our formation has changed from four defenders in our back line to three defenders. This is something new and I feel like we were really able to hold our own against great teams.”

So far, this change has been effective. Just like in the pre-season, the Cougars massively improved on that 2018 scoring average coming up with three goals in two games for 1.5 per game in Winnipeg. It’s a small sample size, but underlying numbers also support this improvement. In two games against Manitoba last season, the Cougars generated 6.5 shots per game; against Manitoba they generated 15 shots per game. During the two-game series in Winnipeg the Cougars generated 7 shots against Manitoba and 20 against Winnipeg, a considerable improvement for the first two games of the season. For fifth-year player Brigit Sinaga, improvement has been coming because the whole team is buying into the new attacking system.

“I would have to credit our coaches Bob, Rob, and Astrid for introducing a more attacking-minded system that has been allowing us to get forward and into the final third as a unit more than ever before. This of course couldn’t be done without the hard work and energy of every single player. Everyone has been so receptive toward whatever the coaches throw our way, making it a very constructive season! The system we’re using is new for everyone this year so to see such success early on is exciting.”

The Cougars did have some defensive struggles in their matches. Against the U of M they allowed 14 shots while only generating 7, a big factor in the 0-3 result. On the other hand, against Winnipeg they were incredibly solid, allowing only 6 shots while generating 20. This is partially due to Manitoba being a stronger team, but the Cougars will need to stay consistent against better teams. Ultimately, if the Cougars want to compete against the strongest teams in Canada West playoffs, they will need to keep the defence tight while maintaining their offensive improvements.

Another strong aspect of the performance came from the new players. Against Winnipeg, rookies Jess Merk and Olivia Gables played their first games as Cougars, scored their first goals, and landed their first wins ,checking off all the boxes. Sierra Kolodziej also generated two shots in the game against Winnipeg while first-year Natalia McCullough fired one of seven against Manitoba. Sinaga was deeply impressed by these rookie performances.

“I’m sure I can speak for the team and coaching staff when I say every rookie has come in and impressed us. It’s no easy task for a rookie to join and blend into a new team dynamic, but the positive attitude and open mindedness these young women possess has allowed us to build a tight-knit and trusting unit.”

The veterans were also out in force in Winnipeg. Fifth-year Juliet Davies scored a big goal against Winnipeg that ended up being the game-winner. Taylor Bubnick, Kristen Finlay, and Sydney Langen also made offence contributions. Sinaga spoke about the role that veterans bring to the team.

“As veterans it’s our responsibility to demonstrate the standard we want to see, and this goes beyond just on field training. Personally, I feel that it’s important to create a competitive yet welcoming environment for the younger girls to gain confidence and remind them that they have a voice on this team.”

“It’s about having a deep squad where everyone can compete, rookies included. It’s also about laying the foundation for years to come and recognizing that this team is bigger than just you and the years you contribute to it. I want to see this team succeed beyond my graduating year so it’s important to pave a positive path for the younger ladies now.”

The Regina women will face another test the weekend of Sept. 14. They will play a double-header against University of Calgary and UNBC. Calgary comes into the game 1-0-1 while UNBC is 2-0, with both teams sitting atop the Pacific division standings. Sinaga said that if the team can continue their progress, they should be looking for a good result.

“Consistency is key now. I can see our team constantly improving with each session and I believe the steady growth and resilience is going to be what takes us to playoffs. We have the ability to compete with every team in our conference, so it’s basically up to us to be turned on for the full 90 and implement everything we’ve been working on.”

It will be another chance for pre-season redemption for U of R – the Calgary women beat them 2-1 at the Great Plains Challenge. These games will be a trial by fire for the young Cougar’s roster as well as their new offensive play style. Should the Cougars defeat Calgary and UNBC, they will have a chance to overtake in-province rival, the U of S Huskies, atop the Canada West standings.

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