No matter how hard you try in practice, you can’t replicate game experience.
Four first-year members of the Tigers women’s soccer team were able to pick up some of that valuable experience when they suited up for team Nova Scotia at the Canada Games this summer.
“Yeah that’s definitely a unique experience,” says Tigers’ Head Coach, Cindy Tye, who also coached team Nova Scotia.
“Competition is unique to be in. And for them to have been in (the Canada Games) I think it helps when they come into this environment. It’s not so daunting, cause they’ve already been through very tough competition.”
Keeper Kate Fines, defender Olivia MacIntyre, and strikers Haley Birrell and Alyssa Hartlen, all played prominent roles for the bronze medal winning Canada Games team. The high level of competition helped prepare them for the sizable jump from their youth club and high school teams to the university level.
Through two games of their AUS career, each has looked comfortable playing at the U-Sports level. Fines is 2-0 with 10 saves and has yet to allow a goal. MacIntyre has played every minute on defense. Hartlen has come on as a substitute in each game and looked confident making plays with the ball. And Birrell scored her first career goal in the team’s 1-0 win over the Acadia Axewomen.
“I didn’t have any doubt that when given the opportunity they could do that,” says Tye.
The first-year Tigers have had the benefit of working with Tye in the team Nova Scotia program over the last several years. They know what the coach expects from her players and already have a solid understanding of her systems. This understanding of positional roles and expectations gives them a head start over other first year players.
Tye is now in her second season at the helm; she believes that the Tigers are more comfortable and developed than they were at this time last year. At the beginning of last season the team was coming off a disappointing 2015 campaign where they missed the playoffs. They had a new coach running a new system and needed to build chemistry from scratch.
“Last year was about setting standards and routines,” she says, explaining the transition from the old program to her program. “Our starting point is much further along than it was.”
While expectations are high for the first year Tigers, Tye is quick to point out the importance of her veteran players aiding in their development.
“They are still first-years so the older kids can lend them some experience for sure,” she says. “But in terms of technically, tactically and athletically, they can do it.”
The results on the field speak for themselves. The Tigers have already beaten two teams that finished ahead of them in the AUS standings last season, in the UNB Varsity Reds and the Axewomen who began the season ranked ninth in the country.
With the teams early season success the expectations are high for the squad and its four homegrown relentless rookies moving forward.
“It’s exciting,” says Tye.