This will not be the last time the possibility of an Atlantic University Sports (AUS) three-peat for the women’s soccer team will be discussed. Head coach Jack Hutchison is well aware of this.
“To be real honest, I don’t think it’s on our minds at all,” says Hutchison following a preseason match against Saint Mary’s University. “What we’ve been talking about is playing good football.”
Focusing on the task at hand has been a recurring theme throughout training camp. The team, which enters the season ranked No. 5 in Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) polls, started competitive play with a 1-0 exhibition victory over SMU.
The Tigers, despite the lone goal, dominated possession throughout the match and had numerous opportunities to score. While the number of chances is encouraging, Hutchison is hoping more conversions will occur once the season kicks off.
“The game is putting the ball in the back of the net,” says Hutchison. “Creating the chances is huge, but we do have to step forward and we do have to convert them. Seeing the girls knock the ball around and create the chances was a definite plus for tonight.”
An early obstacle for the team was replacing five graduating players, including last year’s AUS MVP and co-captain Rieka Santili. The team has regrouped quickly in training camp, according to Hutchison, with energy and excitement running high.
“It’s like the starting of a new school year. It’s exciting, and you get a chance to test where you’re at,” says Hutchison. “It is a new era, and they’re pretty excited about it.”
The Tigers open their regular season with a championship rematch against Cape Breton University, so the focus of the preseason has been integrating the new recruits and adjusting to life without several conference all-stars and longstanding veterans.
“The whole thing about this [exhibition] game is getting the kids out, trying to get through that nervous energy,” says Hutchison.
The team is poised to make another deep run into the post-season, with hopefully a chance to improve on their 5th place finish in the CIS tournament. For now, the focus remains on the next day, even if it’s not the focus of fans and sportswriters alike.
“I’ll be asked about it a time or two, I’m sure,” Hutchison laughs as he fields the first of many potential questions about retaining the AUS crown
A lifelong sports fan, Benjamin Blum entered the world of journalism after suffering a concussion playing rugby for the University of King’s College. From that moment, his twin passions for writing and sports motivated the Thornhill, Ont. native to give this journalism thing a try. Having been an athlete, coach and fan for many years, Ben brings his diverse knowledge of sports along with a witty sense of humour to the sports section. Ben was Sports Editor of the Gazette for Volume 146.