Season preview – no. 2-ranked Spartans open CW campaign this weekend

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The two-time defending Canada West champion Spartans will open their season this weekend as the No. 2-ranked team in the U SPORTS Top 10 and the top-ranked team in the Canada West preseason coaches poll is set to launch their CW title defence on the road.

 

With a large returning core, this year’s Spartans will look to once again contend for championships, both at the conference level and nationally. Led by captain Jenaya Robertson (Delta, B.C.), the Spartans have a talented group with quality depth all over the park.

 

TWU’s women’s soccer team has played in eight straight Canada West finals and in five of the last seven U SPORTS finals. In Langley, the hopes are typically lofty and this year is no different.

 

The Spartans start the year with games at both UBC (Friday) and Victoria (Saturday). TWU’s home-opening weekend is Sept. 13-14 when the Spartans host Winnipeg and Manitoba.

 

Every TWU women’s soccer game will be available live and on demand this season on Canada West TV – the official streaming home of the conference. Passes are now on sale.

 

COACH GRAHAM ROXBURGH

“It’s going to be really interesting this year, because obviously we return a pretty solid core. We do have some new additions in midfield, who I think are different than what we lost in midfield, but they are very smart soccer players and very mobile midfielders. Obviously they are young, but I think some of those new additions are players who played at the highest level in their youth careers. We’re really excited that we have scoring options up front and we’re probably as versatile as we’ve ever been. I’m very optimistic. I feel we have the ability to possess the ball better and we have the ability to break teams down with our passing. But we also recognize that we’re a new group and that might take some time.”

 

GOALTENDERS

With the graduation of Rachel Sydor (Tsawwassen, B.C.), the Spartans will look to second-year goalkeeper Hannah Miller (Langley) to take over starting duties this fall. The year’s season-opener will mark Miller’s first start with the Spartans, as she saw just 45 minutes of action last year behind Sydor. Miller capped the 2019 preseason by making three saves in a 3-1 win over Concordia University (Ore.). Fellow second-year netminders Olivia Nicol (Chilliwack, B.C.) and Ella Sutton (Port Moody, B.C.) are likely to battle for back-up duties.

 

DEFENDERS

The Spartans return their entire back line from last year as the veteran group will include Kristen Sakaki (Surrey, B.C.), Elizabeth Hicks (Langley), Brooklyn Tidder (White Rock, B.C.) and Aliya Coy (Calgary) are all back. Last year, TWU allowed only 14 goals in 14 games, which was good for second in the Pacific Division and with such a strong returning quartet, TWU will once again have a staunch defensive group. Fourth-year players Danielle Thune (Abbotsford, B.C.) and Lindsey Pegios (Surrey, B.C.) will also be in the mix for minutes, while rookie Mila Van der Veen (Parkland County, Alta.), who can play a variety of positions, could earn defensive time.

 

MIDFIELDERS

The midfield will once again be led by Robertson, who will be TWU’s guiding force all around the pitch, coming off a 2018 season when she scored six goals and added four assists. While the graduation of Amy Gartke (Edmonton) and Kathleen Chin (Calgary) leaves a hole in the midfield, look for the likes of second-year Sierra Halldorson (Winnipeg), who was named to the Canada West All-Rookie Team last year, along with first-year players Maddie Melnychuk (Langley) and Charity Field (Burnaby, B.C.) to help form a talented midfield group. Second-year Syd Duquette (Winnipeg) could earn minutes while Van der Veen, amongst others, might also find playing time in the midfield.

 

FORWARDS

Up front, the Spartans have a lot of possibilities and could once again be a very dangerous offensive team. Indeed, the loss of U SPORTS Player of the Year Siena Kashima (Burnaby) leaves a void, but veterans like Kathryn Harvey (Coquitlam, B.C.), Rachel Hutchinson (Cloverdale, B.C.) and Gabi Short (Calgary) will certainly help fill the net. The trio combined for 13 goals last year, with Short scoring seven, which had her tied with Kashima for the team-lead, Harvey tallying four and Hutchinson nabbing two. Last year, TWU scored a conference-best 44 goals, so the offensive bar has been set high entering the 2019 campaign. Look for first-year Grace Van den Brink (Chilliwack, B.C.) to play an offensive role while fourth-year Nicole Bolder (Calgary) will likely also see time up front.

 

BY THE NUMBERS
2018 CW regular season record: 12-2, 1st in Pacific Division

2018 CW post-season record: 3-0, CW champs (U SPORTS – 2nd)

Head coach: Graham Roxburgh (21st) / 166-46-36 (Career CW reg. season record)

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2018 / 8

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: 2013 / 5

2018 CW regular season ranks:

 

    Offence: 44 goals, 1st in CW

    Defence: 14 goals against, 3rd in CW

 

2018 CW regular season leaders:

 

    Goals: 7 – Seina Kashima, F / Gabi Short, F

    Assists: 13 – Seina Kashima, F

    Points: 20 – Seina Kashima, F

    Wins: 12 – Rachel Sydor, GK

    Shutouts: 6 – Rachel Sydor, GK

 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

 

    Maddie Melynchuk / M / 1 / Langley / Langley Secondary

    Charity Field / M / 1 / Vancouver / Richmond Christian

 

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

 

    Seina Kashima / F / Burnaby, BC / 5

    Amy Gartke / M / Edmonton / 5

    Kathleen Chin / M / Calgary / 5

    Rachel Sydor / GK / Tsawwassen, B.C. / 5

 

2019 CW WSOC PRESEASON COACHES POLL

Team – Points (First-place votes)

    Trinity Western Spartans – 212 (7)

    UBC Thunderbirds – 204 (3)

    Calgary Dinos – 202 (4)

    Alberta Pandas – 185 (2)

    MacEwan Griffins – 167

    Victoria Vikes – 162

    Fraser Valley Cascades – 131

    Saskatchewan Huskies – 123

    Manitoba Bisons – 95

    Mount Royal Cougars – 93

    UNBC Timberwolves – 81

    UBCO Heat – 80

    Regina Cougars – 72

    Thompson Rivers WolfPack – 50

    Lethbridge Pronghorns – 39

    Winnipeg Wesmen – 24

 

NOTE: Coaches ranked all opponents 1-15. First-place votes worth 15 points, second-place worth 14 points etc.