Women’s soccer season preview: Lofty goals for accomplished group

Head coach Rob Giesbrecht speaks to his squad at halftime of a recent exhibition game.

Head coach Rob Giesbrecht speaks to his squad at halftime of a recent exhibition game.

2015 Canada West season overview

Regular season record: 8-4-2, 3rd West Division

Post-season record: 0-1, lost in CW quarter-finals

Offence: 32 goals, 2nd in CW

Defence: 20 goals against, 8th in CW

Awards: Tristan Corneil, CW first team all-star

Returning stat leaders:
F Monika Levarsky (7 goals, 2 assists)
F Gurneet Dhaliwal (6 goals, 4 assists) M Brittney Zacharuk (5 goals, 5 assists) GK Kayla Klim (6 wins, 3 shutouts)

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The University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team brings a talented roster into Canada West action this season as they seek another trip to the CIS national championship.

They open their conference schedule on Friday against their local rivals, the Trinity Western Spartans, with a 5:30 p.m. kickoff at MRC Sports Complex, Field 4.

Head coach Rob Giesbrecht, who has guided the Cascades to two national championship tourneys (2010 and 2014) in six previous years at the helm, waved goodbye to two-thirds of his outstanding backline (Dayle Jeras and Jade Palm) and the 2015 CIS assists leader (Shelby Beck) at the end of last season.

But he’s got a lot of talent returning to a squad which spent seven out of 10 weeks in the national rankings last year.

Amanda Carruthers will be a key contributor in her fourth year with the Cascades.

Amanda Carruthers will be a key contributor in her fourth year with the Cascades.

“I think we’re going to compete with the best teams in the country,” Giesbrecht said. “Our goal is to return to the national championships and be successful there. We know that to do that will be extremely difficult, but I believe we’re capable of beating anybody in our division, our conference and the nation. However, because we play in the toughest division and the toughest conference, we know we have to be at our best all the time. If we can find that level of consistency and push our performance to our max, it’s going to be a very good year.”

Fifth-year keeper Kayla Klim is among the best at her position in the conference, and she’ll be playing behind a new-look defence led by fellow senior Tristan Corneil, a Canada West first team all-star last season.

Brittney Zacharuk and Sunayna Samra will ignite the offence from the central midfield, with veteran standouts Danica Kump, Karlee Pedersen and Amanda Carruthers speeding down the wings. Holding midfielder Kara Delwo, a Canada West first team all-star in 2014, is working her way back into the lineup after knee surgery.

Up front, third-year striker Monika Levarsky (seven goals in 2015) and sophomore Gurneet Dhaliwal (six goals) form a dangerous partnership for a team which finished second in the conference in goals (32) last season.

WEEKEND PREVIEW

Cascades vs. Trinity Western Spartans, Friday, Sept. 2, 5:30 p.m.

Friday’s UFV-TWU clash is significant on a couple of fronts. It’s the first Canada West regular season game to be held at the Cascades’ new home pitch (MRC Sports Complex, Field 4), and it’s also the curtain-raiser for the entire conference schedule. There’s just one other Canada West women’s soccer game this weekend (UBC at UVic on Saturday), and the rest of the teams get underway next week.

Befitting the Pacific Division’s reputation as the toughest in the nation – the eight-team grouping has produced 10 of the past 14 national champions – the Cascades get a stiff test right off the bat against Trinity Western, last year’s CIS silver medalists.

The Spartans are an offensive powerhouse – they were the only team in the conference to out-score the Cascades in 2015, racking up 37 goals. Among their returning offensive catalysts are Krista Gommeringer, Rachel Hutchinson and Seina Kashima.

“It’s going to be a good gauge to see where we’re at,” Giesbrecht said. “We have a lot of respect for our cross-Valley rivals, but we’re entering the game fearing nothing, and if we play the way we want to play we give ourselves a great chance to be successful. I think Friday night is all about playing the game to our strengths and having some of our key players be difference-makers.”

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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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