Soccer Coaches Embrace Underdog Role

As the end of the regular season draws near, it is increasingly likely that neither the men’s nor the women’s Timberwolves soccer programs will go straight from collegiate play to the playoffs in Canada West in one season. Through the first four weeks of the season, both teams were winless; the women with two draws and six losses, and then men losing each of their eight games. While both soccer head coaches acknowledge the struggles of the youthful, inexperienced teams, future outlook remains positive – in both the remainder of this season, and in years to follow. “We have improved our performances each week and that is what it is about right now for our program,” said women’s coach Andy Cameron. “I believe we have a good core of players that are young and they will have a positive year’s experience under their belts once the season is over. This sets up the program to take another step next year to close the gap and compete with the best in the conference.  Moving into the CIS has been a huge challenge for the women’s soccer team and I believe the players have done a very good job keeping things in perspective.”

Neither Cameron nor Alderson, nor perhaps anyone at UNBC Athletics will shy away from the reality –  the soccer programs at UNBC may not have been intended to enter the CIS program as quickly as they did.  Soccer was notably absent from the first application to Canada West submitted by UNBC, containing only basketball; when the first application was rejected, an alteration had to be made to restart the process, and soccer was eventually listed next to basketball on the successful application. This season seemed to be about building a foundation for future success, and familiar themes emerge from the coaching staff of both teams: fundamentals, battles, counter-attacks. In the lexicon of sports, these are usually just euphemisms for heavy underdogs, peppered throughout post-game interviews of perennially-losing teams. With UNBC forced into the role of underdog, the coaches have no choice but to embrace it. “I have been extremely proud of the effort our team has put forward this season. We have to continue to focus on the process and build foundation qualities this season,” said Alderson. “We have only two returning starters from the college league and a slew of first year players, focusing on wins and losses instead of focusing on building the habits necessary to compete at this level would be extremely shortsighted. Don’t get me wrong, we would love to win some games real soon, however I am very happy with how hard the guys are working and their commitment to learning to compete at this level.”

One statistic clearly already at the CIS level is UNBC’s attendance at NCSSL fields for home games. The soccer teams shared home games on only one weekend all season, and it fell on September 22nd and 23rd; close to 300 fans were along the near sideline by the time the men kicked off against Trinity Western, in full heckling voice against the rival school from the south.  “I am certainly happy with our first year attendance and with the interest and passion that some of our fans have shown,” said Alderson, potentially alluding to the boisterous crew of fans from UNBC residences lining the upper railing of the NCSSL clubhouse overlooking the pitch. “I am hoping for some very strong and supportive crowds for our last two home games, so that UNBC and Prince George can show Canada that we are building something special in Northern BC.” Alderson has further goals in mind for the program, unsatisfied with the average or the ordinary – home-field advantage was a tactic greatly used by Trinity Western during his time as coach, and it stays in his game plan as he moves north. “I am glad we are in the top half of attendance for the league,” he said (UNBC sits at 218 fans per game, even with UFV, Saskatchewan and TWU, trailing only defending national champions UVic). “However, I am hoping that over the next two seasons that we will have the highest attendance in the country.”

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