Kamloops, BC—It sounds almost like a broken record. “This is a huge weekend for the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s soccer team.”
The WolfPack play their final home matches of the Canada West regular season as they entertain the Pacific Division leading Trinity Western University Spartans on Saturday (Oct 15) and then the University of Fraser Valley Cascades pay a visit to Hillside Stadium on Sunday (Oct 16). Both matches have 1 pm start times.
Trinity has a record of 9-3-2, Fraser Valley is third in the league tied with the WolfPack both with records of 5-6-1. The top four teams make the playoffs.
The ‘Pack are coming off a sweep of the University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat last week. TRU coach John Antulov says it has given them confidence. “We are going into these final four matches knowing we are in a battle for a playoff spot. There are five teams battling for the last two positions and nothing can be taken for granted, so that is motivation as well knowing we have to be on our game at all times to be successful.”
“We knew after the Alberta trip (a tie with MacEwan and loss to Alberta) we knew we had to start getting results,” says WolfPack forward Ryan Glanville (4th year, Williams Lake, BC). “We needed to string together some wins for a playoff spot. Every match since then, it has been that mentality which is fantastic going into the last four games.”
Glanville believes that at the end of the day, the WolfPack are young squad but they are getting more organized as they play. He also thinks that the players are finding ways to play to their strengths. “Obviously, we can attack well. On defense, we are limiting our mistakes which makes things easier. We got two clean sheets last week against UBCO. Hope we can ride that momentum into this stretch.”
Glanville praises his teammates –especially those in the back end—with getting the ball up to the team’s offensive powers: Mitch Popadynetz (3rd year, forward, Nelson, BC), Canada West third star of the week Justin Donaldson (2nd year, midfield, Kamloops, BC) and himself. “That has really been a focus this year is to play the ball out of the back and finding ways to put us in good opportunities. It has been fantastic. The stronger we are at the back is tied how strong we will be.”
These matches this weekend are the back end of a home and home series. Earlier this season, TRU went to the Fraser Valley and lost 1-0 to both the Cascades and the Spartans.
“All these games will be super competitive,” Glanville states. “They are very organized teams. They are feisty and don’t let in a lot of goals. It is something that we have to be ready for. Any chances we have we need to bury them.”
Glanville and Donaldson are among the top scorers in Canada West. Donaldson says that he has noticed the opposition trying to ‘double team’ him. “At times, I have been taken out of the play. We find ourselves playing only one side of the field. But that doesn’t stop us from succeeding.”
With the division being so close (only Trinity and UBC have locked up post season berths), you would have to think all the remaining squads are doing some ‘scoreboard watching”. Antulov says it’s inevitable. “We try not to but it is human nature. All of us are playing each other so every game is magnified but our main focus is on what we are doing and what we need to do.”
Antulov says one of the things which has impressed him about his squad over the last few weeks has been their ability to grind it out. “Over the last seven games we have minimized our mistakes in crucial areas that hurt us in the past. Hopefully we can continue that trend.”
Both matches this weekend will be webcast on a pay-per-view basis on Canadawest.TV
THROW INS: This is Alumni weekend at TRU. On Saturday, alumni will be mixing with the WolfPack’s current players from 3-6 pm at the “Den” restaurant at the Campus Activity Centre.
TRU will be missing one key component to their back line on Saturday. Adam Swanson (2nd year, defender, North Vancouver, BC) will sit it out after picking up another yellow card. He will return to the lineup on Sunday.
The WolfPack finish off the regular season Oct 22 and 23 rd in Victoria and Vancouver against UBC.