Season preview: Women’s soccer team aiming for return trip to nationals

Coming off a memorable 2014 campaign which saw them earn the Canada West silver medal and finish fourth at CIS nationals, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team has every reason for optimism heading into the 2015 regular season.

The Cascades welcome back the majority of the key contributors from last year’s squad, and they’re aiming to take another step forward.

Insta WSOC home openers“We’re excited about what this year could be,” said head coach Rob Giesbrecht, who begins his sixth season at the helm of the Cascades. “Having gotten a taste of it last year, by no means are we satisfied. If anything, it just deepens the hunger for more success and taking last year’s accomplishments even further. But we know it’s a tough journey. There are so many good teams in our conference.”

Indeed, there’s no easing into the regular season for the Cascades – they open at home this weekend against a pair of perennial powerhouse programs. The Victoria Vikes are in town for a 4 p.m. tilt on Friday, and the UBC Thunderbirds take on the Cascades at 6:15 p.m. Saturday. Both games are at Panther Field at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, and can be viewed online at canadawest.tv.

“Welcome to Canada West women’s soccer,” Giesbrecht said with a wry chuckle. “It’s a challenge in that we get right into it right away, which is great. These two teams played each other last week (a 1-0 UBC win), so they’ve got one league game under their belts, which we don’t. Our preseason was great, but there’s nothing like a league game.

“We had some success against these teams last year, and if anything, that makes it a little tougher to get a result because that element of surprise is no longer there,” he added. “Both teams are very deep in talented soccer players. It’s not like you’re finding the weak areas on the field. You’re just trying to manage their strengths, and making sure you’re playing your game well.”

Personnel-wise, the Cascades’ strength begins at the back with goalkeeper Kayla Klim and the stalwart defensive trio of Jade Palm, Dayle Jeras and Tristan Corneil.

Klim is coming off a stellar 2014 which saw her finish fourth in Canada West with an .841 save percentage (with six shutouts) during the regular season. She also starred in the post-season, and won the conference’s Student-Athlete Community Service Award. In Palm, Jeras and Corneil – all fourth-year or fifth-year players – Klim gets tremendous veteran support.

In the midfield, speedy fourth-year winger Danica Kump and sophomore Avneet Bhullar are among the key returnees. Talented rookies Harman Billen, Brittney Zacharuk and Gurneet Dhaliwal will also make an impact.

Up front, the Cascades’ dynamic duo of Shelby Beck and Monika Levarsky, who tied for the team lead with six goals apiece during the regular season, are back to spearhead the attack. Beck, in her fifth year, is a dynamic playmaker, while sophomore Levarsky is a natural finisher. She was a second team Canada West all-star as a rookie in 2014.

The rest of the nation holds Giesbrecht’s squad in high esteem. The Cascades were ranked No. 4 in the first CIS coaches’ poll of the season, and were at No. 7 in the most recent ranking released Tuesday.

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The University of the Fraser Valley is situated on the unceded traditional territory of the Stó:lō peoples. The Stó:lō have an intrinsic relationship with what they refer to as S’olh Temexw (Our Sacred Land); therefore, we express our gratitude and respect for the honour of living and working in this territory.

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