EDMONTON – After losing just one game all season and clinching the 2011 Canada West women’s soccer title at home, the Trinity Western Spartans emerged as the favourite to finish first in the conference again this season.
With seven of 13 first-place votes from coaches conference-wide, the Spartans finished ahead Alberta, UBC and Victoria, each of which managed to grab first-place votes.
Here are the complete voting results, based on a 14-12-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 system (first-place votes in parentheses):
1. Trinity Western (7) 153
2. Alberta (3) 142
3. UBC (2) 138
4. Victoria (1) 115
5. Saskatchewan 90
6. Calgary 88
7. Fraser Valley 83
8. Regina 61
9. Manitoba 61
10. Mount Royal 45
11. Lethbridge 35
12. Winnipeg 25
13. UNBC 17
The Trinity Western Spartans are coming off an impressive season that saw them win 12 of 14 regular season matches and two straight at the conference Final Four in Langley, B.C. With a disappointing sixth as CIS Nationals, the Spartans are searching for their first national title since 2009.
The Alberta Pandas were a strong third in standings, second at the CW Final Four last season, while the UBC Thunderbirds had reversed numbers – second and third, respectively, leaving them just shy of a spot at the Final 8, hosted by McGill University.
A distant fourth in the coaches’ poll, receiving one first-place vote, the Victoria Vikes snuck into last season’s playoffs, but were slightly overmatched at the Final Four. They look for a return to the playoffs and a better final result in the fall of 2012.
The Saskatchewan Huskies have narrowly missed the post-season each of the past two seasons, finishing fifth both times. With a growing conference and expanded playoffs, the Huskies expect to get over that hurdle this season. The Calgary Dinos were steady at 21 points last season, while the 2010 CIS bronze medallist Fraser Valley Cascades saw their point total cut in half to just 12. The former looks for the improvement needed to compete with top schools, while the latter hopes for a return to glory after a season of rebuilding.
The Regina Cougars and Manitoba Bisons have both had spurts of success in recent years, but have yet to break through in the ever-tough Canada West conference. Both women’s soccer teams have seen key players graduate, creating a young team looking to stay healthy and benefit from experience in the years ahead. Former star and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Desiree Scott remains an assistant coach with the Bisons.
Coming off a winless season, the Lethbridge Pronghorns will be a young team, while the Mount Royal Cougars, UNBC Timberwolves and Winnipeg Wesmen will compete in Canada West women’s soccer for the first time… each will gauge the roster, benefit from the level of competition and work toward the ultimate goal of a CIS national championship.
A complete 2012 Canada West women’s soccer preview will be released on Thursday.