By Larry Read
Kamloops, BC—After a first week bye, the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s soccer team is ready to kick off its 2015-16 Canada West regular season.
The WolfPack will launch their second Canada West campaign at home this weekend (Sept 11-12) with matches at Hillside Stadium against the Trinity Western University Spartans and the University of Fraser Valley Cascades. Kick off both days will be 2 pm.
After winning five and tying two of their eight preseason matches, head coach John Antulov is confident of his team being vastly improved this year.
“Our preseason went very well,” he said. “ Very happy with the players we recruited. How they are progressing and how the team is shaping up. This weekend will be huge to determine where we will stack up against the Canada West teams. Hopefully we get some good results.”
Antulov says the team better than the one which made its debut in the CIS and Canada West last season. “We have definitely improved and upgraded over last year. Competitiveness was good last year but execution wasn’t too great. I think with some of the players we have brought in we have more experience, better technical ability and that will help us get over the hump in those really tight games where we lost 1-0 or tied 0-0. Those players who we have brought in should get us more positive results.”
Antulov says the extra week to prepare for the start of the season was a benefit. “ We are chomping at the bit to get going. We had a lot of two a day practices and lots of exhibition games to get ready. We had a light week to prepare us for our matches.”
Thompson Rivers has 12 players in its line-up who weren’t there at the end of the season. “My recruiting went well. The players we brought in will all contribute to the program during their time here. There are some players who exceeded my expectations so far. Olamide Adjibike (Maple Ridge, BC), Adam Swanson (North Vancouver, BC) and Claye Harsany (High River, AB) are players who make an immediate impact this year. We had a walk on player Michael Caldwell (Surrey, BC) who surprized us with his play. Some of our young Kamloops kids who we thought were going to be ‘a little down the pipe’ have moved up the depth chart.”.
Antulov is referring to Keenan Wallace and Haris Djelmo (both graduates of Sa-Hali Secondary).
“Finding Ryan Glanville (Williams Lake, BC) at the top of our order and having Mitch Popadenetz (Nelson,BC) being able to play this year will be a benefit,” the coach adds. Both are former UBC Thunderbird players who have won CIS championships. “ They will be huge contributors to our offense and overall quality of our group.”
Antulov says the return of veterans Braeden Burrows and Kyle Fertile (both Kamloops, BC and both Sa-Hali Secondary grads) will just add to the team’s improvement. Both were PACWEST all-stars when TRU played in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association.
Burrows, Fertile, Corey Wallis (Enderby, BC), Oriol Torres (Barcelona, Spain) and Travis Froehlich (Revelstoke, BC) are the Pack’s fifth year players and will be key as well to any march to a post season berth for TRU. “ All five of those guys will be key contributors. It is a lot of pressure for them. But that being said, they have been around and they know what the expectations are. They love the pressure and will want to do well in their final year. The way they have played in the preseason so far has been excellent. They will be huge factors.”
Antulov believes both the opponents this weekend (Trinity and UFV) will be strong. “It won’t be any different than last year. They have both improved and picked up a lot of players. Fraser Valley really pushed in the Canada West. Both of these games will be difficult.
UFV finished third in the Pacific Division last year with six wins, five losses and a draw. Trinity Western was fifth with three wins, six defeats and three draws. Thompson Rivers had two wins, eight losses and two draws.THROW INS- The matches will mark the return of the Gyldi’s Pizza/TRU WolfPack/KYSA Soccer experience. Two youth teams from the Kamloops Youth Soccer Association will be on hand to walk onto the field with the starters of both teams (like World Cup/International Matches). They will also play at half time, enjoy a pizza and beverage party from Gyldi’s Pizza and then meet TRU players after the match. TRU is the only school in the CIS to have this program.
Janessa Munden will be signing the national anthem at both matches. She has sung for the WolfPack for four seasons now.
Both games will be webcast on Canada West TV. All matches are pay-per-view.