Ooks soccer squads heading to nationals

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(ISN) – Edmonton, AB  – For the second time in NAIT’s history, the Ooks men’s and women’s soccer teams are both heading to national playoffs as provincial gold-medal winners. In each case, the wins happened under extreme conditions.

In Edmonton, on Oct. 26, the women faced a second-half snowstorm in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) final that limited visibility and nearly turned the field into a safety hazard. In such a situation, “anything we want to do from a game plan perspective goes out the door,” said head coach Carole Holt. “Anything could happen in that second half.”

What happened was the game’s only goal. Despite strong defense from the Medicine Hat Rattlers, the Ooks put one through at the 82-minute mark, winning the sixth championship of their 22-year history.

On the same weekend in Fort McMurray, the men faced the Keyano Huskies in the men’s ACAC final and the challenge of a wide, unprotected field. “In first couple of games wind played a huge factor,” said head coach Charles O’Toole. But the team couldn’t be moved from its goal.

“The boys were looking to set the score straight,” said O’Toole.

In previous meetings this season, the Ooks lost and tied against the Huskies. The championship game represented a decisive turnaround, ending 3-0 and giving the men their 10th provincial gold in 31 years.

Both teams move on to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national playoffs during the week of Nov. 3. The women head to Medicine Hat, hosted by the Rattlers, as the No. 1 seed; the men, ranked third, are off to Oakville, Ont. as guests of Sheridan College.

“For me this proves we have one of the best soccer programs in Canada, men and women,” says Athletics and Recreation director Linda Henderson.

Among the men’s advantages, she highlights their ability to focus on and stick to the game plan as they go for what may be their second national win. As for the women, who’ve yet to win national gold, she’s impressed by the depth and level of skill that runs right across the roster.

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