By: Sebastian Barreto
According to head coach Annie Hamel, the upcoming season holds exciting prospects for Simon Fraser University’s women’s soccer team, as youthful additions join established talent to drive the Clan towards the post-season.
Six senior members of the Clan return for their final season. These include defender Allyson Dickson, midfielders Jenna-lee Baxter, Christina Dickson, Samantha Donald and Tanis Cuthbert, and forward Katelyn Erhardsen. Included in the team is star striker, Emma Pringle, a junior who returns after a furious campaign, netting 14 goals and grabbing three assists in 15 games last season.
A significant number of new faces will be joining the squad, as eight freshmen are included in the roster. However, the spine of the team will feature strength throughout as returning seniors are ubiquitous in outfield positions.
An area where there will undoubtedly be alteration is between the posts, as last year’s first-choice goalkeeper Priya Sandhu has graduated from the program. Goalkeepers Mikayla Isobe, sophomore, or Nicole Anderson, freshman, will duel for the starting position. Hamel touched upon the vacant position with encouraging optimism.
“That is a battle we are looking forward to,” said Hamel when interviewed by The Peak. “Our goalkeeper is important to our identity. Mikayla Isobe and Nicole Anderson are both healthy and it’s a lot of fun to watch the competitiveness of the two keepers. We need to see who performs best, it is a true battle.” Coach Hamel also suggested that the upcoming pre-season matches will help make the final decision — however, this healthy competition is a good “problem” for her squad to have.
SFU’s squad will be looking to build on the performances of last season, but the team faces a lengthy and challenging battle in claiming a postseason berth. Finishing fifth out of nine teams last season, the team is eyeing a move up the ladder. When asked by The Peak about her squad’s strengths and weapons, Hamel pointed to her seniors.
“Our biggest strength right now is our senior group,” said Hamel. “We have a group who have been four-year starters; that is a lot of experience. Their leadership is probably our greatest strength right now. Having that core group who have been through it, when I see our seniors on the pitch right now, it’s the same players, but I see things that I have never seen before.”
Coach Hamel acknowledges the mix of youth and veterans in her squad and believes that the seniors will form the rallying point for the duration of the campaign. “We will be looking for the seniors to guide, inspire and influence the freshmen,” said head coach Hamel. “When you are a senior you have baggage, good baggage that you can draw from. That’s the thing with experience, the only way out is through. You cannot fast forward it, you cannot learn experience because we are saying it, you must live it. Our seniors are there and that is why, when you see successful teams, you see they have a strong group of seniors.” Coach Hamel intends to get the new members up to speed quickly while familiarizing her team members with each other.
Regarding the footballing identity of her squad during the 2018 campaign, Coach Hamel anticipated an attacking style of play this season. “Right now, we have the players and the experience to be playing an attacking brand of football, we want to play at pace, be mentally strong and grind,” Hamel asserted.
The coach discussed four elements she feels are key to success this term: “Being technically proficient for 90 minutes, tactically organized, mentally strong and physically prepared. Those are the four cornerstones that we’re looking to put on the pitch, no matter who is on the field. If we make a substitution or someone goes down with an injury, we expect the next up to fill the job.”
When asked about her squad’s targets for the upcoming season, Hamel insisted that the primary goal is to have the squad battling hard throughout the season to make 2018 a successful and memorable term. Hamel stated that this is especially important for the seniors, who are gearing up for their last ride.
“We need to look at it as a marathon not as a sprint, to be better every game, and to get stronger as we progress through the season.” Hamel added, “Collectively, we want to send the seniors off with the year they would want,” optimistically concluding, “This is one of the strongest units we have had since I’ve been here.”
The SFU women’s soccer team kicked off their season with a non-conference game in Seattle against Minnesota State Moorhead on Thursday, August 30. SFU is set to fire up their Great Northwest Athletic Conference campaign at home on September 15. You can catch the game live from Terry Fox Field at 3 p.m.