The first taste of CIS sports in Prince George will come via the UNBC Timberwolves women's soccer team, as they return from a Manitoba road trip to host a pair of games vs UVic and UFV at the NCSSL fields September 15th and 16th. A fast start for the team is key, with only one game against each of the other twelve Canada West schools over a punishing six week schedule. After the regular season concludes, the top eight teams qualify for the postseason in late October. Soccer season in the CIS is designed to begin early and end before snowfall. With little time to prepare and gel as a unit, incoming head coach Andy Cameron wanted the players arriving in Prince George ready to play. “The season is short and that creates challenges in preparation. You expect the players to be playing at the highest possible level during the summer and that they come in fit, so you can concentrate on the tactical considerations in preparation for the season.”
Cameron, 50, enters the job holding a resume loaded with CIS head coaching experience. His most recent posting was in Fredericton, where he led the Varsity Reds women over the last nine seasons. Prior to his time at UNB, he also held the Memorial University of Newfoundland's women's and Prince Edward Island men's soccer head coaching positions. The Timberwolves have trained with exhibition games against local men's and women's teams in advance of the season. As most of the roster is drawn from Prince George and the immediate area - the roster currently features 17 players, with 9 coming to UNBC directly from high school soccer in Prince George - the bond between campus and the local community is an important one that Cameron recognizes. “I like what I see locally with the youth teams and the development that is taking place within the PGYSA,” he said. “As we continue to build the program here at UNBC, the hope is that we can attract these players to become part of the Timberwolves soccer program.”
The team sees over half its roster return from 2011, which gels with Coach Cameron's philosophy of team play. He did not reveal his thoughts on individual positions or players, preferring instead to emphasize a focus on playing as a team unit and adjusting tactics based on the opposition. On the sidelines, he appears patient, his voice being heard above the game noise only rarely, and usually to encourage the midfield and forwards to pressure for turnovers.
The women's soccer program at UNBC is still developing, with major struggles in recent years. Over the last two seasons in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s PACWEST division, the Timberwolves scored only once in a 2011 season that saw them finish 0-12, and they posted a 0-11-1 record in 2010. As PACWEST is mostly made up of community colleges in BC, taking a struggling program into an established conference featuring perennial national titans such as Trinity Western may seem unenviable, but Cameron remains optimistic. “I tried not to have any preconceived opinions about the program or the players; I wanted to be as objective about the situation as possible,” he said. “So the first thing was to assess the situation when I arrived and last year’s coaching staff have been very helpful in identifying some of the strengths and weaknesses in the program. After being here a few months, my thoughts are that there is a good core of players to build on.” Coach Cameron and everyone involved with UNBC Athletics hopes to see solid fan turnout and loud support all season, starting right from kickoff at noon on September 15 against Victoria.