FROM ROOKIES TO VETS, NEW TITLE THIRST FUELS SPARTANS WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM

Daniela Gerig

FROM ROOKIES TO VETS, NEW TITLE THIRST FUELS SPARTANS WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM
By Howard Tsumura - Vancouver Province - LINK to Story

LANGLEY — Graham Roxburgh knows the 2011 Canada West women’s soccer season is filled with an entirely new set of challenges for his former two-time defending CIS champion Trinity Western Spartans.

After winning back-to-back national championships in 2008-09, their losses became bigger news than their wins. Yet any thoughts of a threepeat came to a halt when TWU faltered in the conference playoffs and failed to earn a berth to the CIS national championshipos for the first time since 2007.

So now, it’s an older and wiser team of Spartans, a group many are calling the most talented ever at the school, which Roxburgh has begun shaping in the early stages of the 2011 season.

“All I used to say was how young we were, and we won when we were so young,” said Roxburgh, whose team sits at No. 8 in the national rankings.

“So now, the question is can maturity bring us to a new level and keep us at that high level, or do those mature players lose their edge because they have already accomplished a lot of things?”

The question has not yet been answered. TWU (2-1-0) started the season with a 1-0 loss to current No. 5-ranked UBC (3-0-0), but answered back with decisive wins at home over Manitoba (4-1) and Regina (3-0) this past weekend.

Yet if there is an intangible working in their favour, it has been the net effect of having four of its key players compete on the Canadian team which finished fifth at the FISU World University Games in August, a team that Roxburgh himself coached.

“In fairness, the four that went (midfielder Melissa Mobilio, forwards Daniela Gerig and Nikki Wright, defender Natalie Boyd) are probably still feeling the aftereffects of being tired,” said Roxburgh, whose team plays at No. 3 Alberta on Saturday. “You are literally playing a game of CIS playoff intensity, but it’s way higher because you’re doing it every day and your doing it in 35 degree heat.”

Keeper Kristen Funk and defender Jilian Dietrich were also selected to the team, and although injuries prevented them making the trip, they still benefitted from the enhanced training environment.

“It is an experience that is going to help us,” Gerig says of the FISU Games, where Canada played China in front of 35,000 fans in its group stage. “We know what kind of skill level is out there, and we have to bring it to the rest of the team. Right now, it’s contagious. And when you lose (in Canada West playoffs), it’s like we’re underdogs all over again.”

Last Updated: 2012-03-07
Author: Mark Janzen