LANGLEY, British Columbia – For the past decade, the Trinity Western women’s soccer team has been unquestionably the most consistently dominant program in the country and this year’s expectations are no different than any other season in recent memory. The goal is to win it all and there’s no reason to believe this year’s team can’t do just that.
The Spartans, who open the season ranked No. 3 in the CIS Top 10, have played in each of the last four CIS championship matches and six of the last eight. They have won national titles in four of the last eight years. However, despite their grand success for more than a decade – they have five national titles in the last 12 years – recent history has seen TWU lose in each of the last two national championship games. So, with an renewed hunger permeating throughout the group, this year’s team is focused squarely on getting back to the dance and this time finishing on top.
The Spartans open their season this weekend when they will travel to play Fraser Valley Friday at 5:30 p.m. (PT). The game can be seen live at www.canadawest.tv.
Coach Graham Roxburgh said: “It’s an interesting year because obviously we’ve lost a lot of players who have had post-season experience. It’s kind of an in-between season with some mature seniors that are still here and have been there before, but also some younger players who are coming into the lineup. We’ll have a mixture of maturity and inexperience, but I really like the group. They’re working hard and when they play well, they can compete with anybody.”
Fifth-year defender Lindsey Pulice said: “For me, I like to use (losing nationals last year) as motivation. It’s my last year and I really want us, together, to win a gold. That would be amazing. The last two years, we’ve won silver, so I think it’s time to win a gold again.”
Fifth-year defender Steph Chin said: “I think we’ve all made a very conscious effort to come together as a team this year. Our team has a very unique culture and I think we really wanted to focus on that and make the girls feel like they’re part of a family and part of the Spartan family. I think having that focus at the forefront of what we do helped us gel really quickly as a team.”
The Spartans goalkeeping is good hands as fifth-year Ally Williamson (Langley) will patrol the TWU net. The former UBC Thunderbird is in her third year with the Spartans, but this will only be her second year on the field after sitting out the 2014 season due to CIS transfer rules. Last year, her first season on the pitch with TWU, she allowed just six goals in 14 regular season games and proved that she might just be the best goalie in the country. In her final season at the CIS level, much is expected from Williamson, as she will be one of the core leaders of this year’s team. Christina Oliverio (Calgary) and Rachel Sydor (Tsawwassen, B.C.) will compete for back-up duties.
The defensive line will once again be a strength of the Spartans, with a veteran core that is set to include Amy Gartke (Edmonton) and Lindsey Pulice (Burnaby, B.C.) on the outsides and Steph Chin (Calgary) helping in the middle. With second-year Brooklyn Tidder (White Rock, B.C.) shifting to a centre back role, the Spartans added some height in the middle. Look for first-years Kristen Sakaki (Surrey, B.C.) and Elizabeth Hicks (Surrey, B.C.) to make strong pushes for minutes.
With the losses of graduated stars Vanessa Kovacs (North Delta, B.C.) and Ali Oliverio (Calgary), the Spartans will need to fill some large gaps this year in the midfield. However, with second-years Jenaya Robertson (Delta, B.C.), who was amongst the best rookies in the country last year, taking on a bigger role and third-years Kat Chin (Calgary) and Leanne Verhoeff (Calgary) also stepping into larger shoes, the midfield has a solid base in which to build upon and has the potential to be very dangerous.
Up front, the trio of fifth-year Isabella Di Trocchio (Burnaby, B.C.), third-year Seina Kashima (Burnaby) and last year’s CIS Rookie of the Year Rachel Hutchinson (Cloverdale, B.C.) will guide the Spartans offence. The speedy Kashima finished tied for second in Canada West last year with seven assists and if an impressive preseason is any indication, she is primed to take yet another offensive step forward. Hutchinson, who tallied five goals and added six assists to finish tied for second in team scoring last year, will look build on a fantastic rookie season, while Di Trocchio, who scored four goals last year, will once again be relied upon to help carry the offensive load.
BY THE NUMBERS
2015 CW regular season record: 10-1-3, 2nd in West Division
2015 post-season record: 3-1, 2nd
Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2014 / 6
Last CIS championship / total CIS championships: 2013 / 5
2015 CW regular season ranks:
Offence: 37 goals, 1st
Defence: 6 goals against, 1st
2015 CW regular season leaders:
Goals: 10 – Ali Oliverio, Midfielder
Assists: 7 – Seina Kashima, Midfielder
Points: 13 – Ali Oliverio, Midfielder
Wins: 10 – Ally Williamson, Goalkeeper
Shutouts: 9 – Ally Williamson, Goalkeeper
Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):
Kristen Sakaki / D / 1 / Surrey, B.C. / Surrey United
Gabi Short / F / 1 / Calgary / Calgary Southwest United Premiers
Elizabeth Hicks / D / 1 / Surrey, B.C. / Surrey United
Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):
Vanessa Kovacs / MID / North Delta, B.C. / 5
Ali Oliverio / MID / Calgary / 5
Quinn Hardstaff / D / Calgary / 1
The fifth-year Williamson is arguably the best goalkeeper in the country the two-time CIS All-Canadian will once again solidify the Spartans defensive group. The local product started all 21 of the Spartans regular season and playoff games, earning 13 clean sheets as she helped guide TWU to Canada West and CIS silver medals. Williamson didn’t allow a single goal in the three preseason games she played, including making three saves in a 0-0 draw with the University of Washington Huskies.