Despite only picking up a single point this season, Kwantlen men’s soccer coach, Ajit Braich, says that there are a lot of positives his team can take away after his first year in charge.
The Eagles finished at the bottom of their division with a -34 goal difference. But Braich, who has spent over 25 years coaching professionally, has his eyes and mind on the future.
“It was a difficult season. I didn’t realize we’d lose by as many goals, but we are such a young team. However, with the signs that we left on the field, with other schools, the coaching staff and the athletic directors, is that we are on the right road and we are trying to build a program over two or three years,” said Braich.
With majority of the roster consisting of first-year students, the men’s team was labelled inexperienced. The average age of the team was just over 19 years, and the team was in the midst of a shift.
“It was just a matter of these young players growing up from a youth mentality to an adult mentality player-wise. That was the biggest thing. I think every game they got better and went further with that transition,” said Braich.
However, the head coach is scouting for some experience to add some depth into his squad.
“We’re looking to recruit better players and experienced players out there who aren’t getting playing time with other schools. I’m hoping we’ve painted a picture were people want to come to Kwantlen. That was my intent. We want to bring some players back, but we don’t want to stop recruiting,” said Braich.
The main cause of concern this season was the Eagles back line, which conceded 51 goals over the 12-game season.
“We are going to definitely recruit two or three defenders. That was one of our drawbacks. We didn’t have defenders in depth. So I had to stick with what I had. That is a priority,” said Braich.
With the 2010 BCCAA Provincial Championship being hosted by Kwantlen, the men’s coach said it was a shame they couldn’t make the cut.
“They could have showcased their abilities in front of a home crowd. So that was disappointing, knowing that we were at home. But having said that, it was almost a brand new year for us. We had very little to build on from last year,” said Braich.
“The primary goal now is to start looking to get those Ws by hard work and not just ability. It’s not just ability that will get those. We’ve got to learn how to grind results or keep results and next year’s goal could be that we make the provincials.”
The Kwantlen women’s soccer team is out to defend their provincial gold as they took on the Quest Kermodes in the provincial quarterfinals Friday.
The team won the BCCAA provincials last year and, led by first-year head coach Gordon Smith and first team all-stars Melina Gomez, Brittany McNeil and Shanay Sangha, finished second in league play this year.
Kwantlen is hosting the provincial tournament this year at the new turf fields at Newton Athletic Park in Surrey.
“League play has been really challenging this year. Apart from maybe one or two games, it has been hard fought and close all year,” Smith said.
Kwantlen finished the season with eight wins, three losses and one draw to finish seven points behind first-place UBC Okanagan in their division.
Kwantlen, however, has the advantage of having players on the team that have won a provincial championship before, and the team gets to play its provincial games on the home field at Newton Athletic Park.
“Having home field is huge. We don’t have to travel and we can stick to our normal routine and be well rested,” Smith said. “We’ve been successful all year at home. The field is bigger and wider, so it gives us more room to attack out wide.”
Kwantlen took on the Quest Kermodes in the quarterfinals on Friday. Kwantlen played Quest once this year coming away with a 1-0 victory in Squamish in October.
Quest finished third in the division, winning only three times all year, but Smith has warned his team about the dangers of taking a team lightly.
“They are a very good team. We’ve played them and they’re a disciplined, well defending team. They counter attack well and are good on set pieces. We are going to have to limit the number of free kicks we give them,” Smith said.
Kwantlen is led by three first-team all-stars: goalkeeper Melina Gomez, defender Brittany McNeil and midfielder Shanay Sangha. Sangha tied for fifth in the league for goals during league play this year with six, and Gomez and McNeil led a solid defense core for Kwantlen, which gave up only nine goals in 12 league games.
“It is very important that they continue to play at the highest level. They’ve been our most consistent players, but that being said we’ve gotten contributions from others (two rookies) that have been big,” Smith said.
The women’s semi-finals will take place this Saturday, Oct. 30 at noon, at Newton Athletic Park, and the bronze and gold medal games will take place at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 31 at Newton Athletic Park in Surrey.
Both of the Kwantlen soccer teams played their final home games of the season, against the Capilano Blues, on Oct. 17 at Newton Athletic Park.
Just like last year, the men’s team couldn’t wait for a dreadful season to end, while the women’s team was set to play in the provincial championships, which are being co-hosted between Kwantlen, Capilano and Langara.
Going into the match, the women hadn’t lost in three games, and were hoping to extend that run.
They were also sitting in second place; four points behind UBCO.
On the other hand, the men’s team was struggling before the match, only picking up one point so far this season.
They had only scored seven goals in nine matches going into this encounter with Capilano, including a streak where the team went over 450 minutes without scoring.
The brand new turf field at Newton Athletic Park was used for the first time when both Kwantlen soccer teams played against UNBC on Sept. 12.
But even though the pitch has been deemed ready for play, there is still construction going on around the field.
The stands, which will hold 500 people, have yet to be installed, along with a change room for officials, who are currently using an empty shipping container.
The original plans were for construction to be complete by the end of the summer, but it seems that the field needs a few more weeks for a final touch-up.
Rookie centre midfielder Vickey Parhar is all smiles about the Eagles new home.
“I think it’s great. It really shows that Kwantlen is really putting money into their athletics and showing their support in the teams,” said Parhar.
According to Parhar, the money was well spent by the university, and the delay doesn’t bother him too much.
“No, I didn’t think so. Stuff doesn’t usually go according to schedule. Yeah [I’m a little disappointed], because I wanted to see a lot of fans out.”
Newton Athletic Park will be the venue for the 2010 BCAAA Provincial Championships from Oct. 29-31, and all will be hoping that the project will be complete.
Kwantlen invested a little over $1 million in the field, which was priced at $2.85 million.
“There’s an expectation,” says Gordon Smith, the new head coach of the Kwantlen Eagles women’s soccer team.
As a new season gets under way for the team there are high expectations. Last season, the team used penalty shootouts to power their way to a provincial title and a bronze medal finish at the nationals, the first national medal of any kind for Kwantlen.
But with only seven players from that championship team returning, it isn’t going to be easy and youth will be the highlight of the new squad.
The biggest hole for the Eagles to fill will be the 24×8-foot net at their end of the field. Last year’s starting goalkeeper, Amelia Ng, was the not only the team’s MVP, but also the provincial tournament’s MVP for her performance in the playoffs.
Filling Ng’s net will be new rookie recruit, Melina Gomez.
“I love it. Mo’s [Monivoi Vataiki] a good keeper, so I’m excited to be starting. I just have to keep practising hard and hopefully I’ll keep the starting position.”
Smith said they have challenged the other keepers to battle hard for the starting role but Gomez should continue to start for now.
Gomez looks to be just one part of the new youth movement for the team, which has 10 rookies on the roster. But, like any good team, the Eagles will rely heavily on their veterans to guide the team. That starts with their captain, defender Brittany McNeill, who looks to play an even larger role with the team this year.
“The returning players have a great work ethic and a great attitude and they want to win,” said Assistant Coach Joan McEachern, who has been with the team since 2003.
Both McEachern and Smith are confident of the team’s chances of success this year but are quick to point out that it will be no easy task, as there are a lot of good teams in the province.
“I was just thinking about that the other day: Who has repeated in the last four years? No one. It speaks volumes to the parity in the league,” said McEachern.
The last team to repeat as provincial champs was the Langara Falcons in ’06-’07. After becoming the first Kwantlen team to win a national medal, the Eagles are confident going into the ’10-’11 season.
“I think that everyone’s goal is to get to Nationals again… and see if we can catch lightning in a bottle again,” said Smith.
The Kwantlen men’s soccer team is holding three talent identification sessions next week in the hope of finding quality players to add to the roster for next season.
“Evaluations are open to anyone who contacts me showing their interest in joining Kwantlen,” said Ajit Braich, head coach of Kwantlen’s men’s soccer team.
“Players should attend as many of the three sessions as possible. We need to see the players in a group setting.”
Sessions will be held off-campus at the South Surrey Athletic Park on Monday, March 15; Wednesday, March 17; and Friday, March 19. All training sessions will run from 6:30-8:30 p.m..
“The number of returning players will greatly depend on the turn out and quality of the evaluation camps,” said Braich.
Anyone interested must contact Braich at email@example.com prior to attending an identification session.
The Kwantlen women’s soccer team has signed four new recruits for next season’s team.
Hilary Andow, Melina Gomez, Tiffany O’Krane and Norma Sheane have agreed to play for the Eagles in the 2010-’11 season.
Andow went to R.C. Palmer Secondary in Richmond, where she played midfield and forward for the Griffins. She won the school’s Top Athlete award in Grades 8, 10, 11 and 12. She already has two years of collegiate soccer under her belt, and head coach Vladimir Samozvanov expects her to be one of the team leaders in the coming season.
Gomez is Kwantlen’s newest goalie and she has provincial and national soccer experience. She also won Athlete of the Year in 2007 at her high school, Carson Graham in Vancouver.
O’Krane is a midfielder/defenseman from Fleetwood Park Secondary in Surrey, where she won Athlete of the Year and MVP on her soccer team Grades 8 through 11.
Sheane is no new face to Samozvanov. He’s coached the defensive player in the past and is excited to have her join the Eagles this year. She was a member of the U18 Burnaby United, which was a 2009 national finalist; the U17 provincial championship team; and the U17 Las Vegas Tournament champions team in 2008.
Samozvanov feels that the new players will add to the squad’s style of play.
“The main goal in recruiting for me was to replace graduated players and add new dimension to the team’s play,” he said. “The [overall] goal is to build a strong team, which we were able to do for the past two years, and we want to keep the momentum going.”
Kwantlen’s 2009-’10 team won the school’s first-ever provincial title and the first national medal, with a third place finish at the Canadian Collegiate Athletics Association national tournament in Ontario.
The Kwantlen Eagles mascot is in need of a name and the athletics department is challenging students to come up with it, offering an iPod touch to the winner.
The mascot, which was designed by a collaboration of student opinions, is a giant eagle that has been nameless since its first appearance last September at a school sporting event.
â€œWe feel that this is a great opportunity for students to get involved and show their school spirit,â€ said Katlyn Moore, Kwantlenâ€™s athletic director.
The contest requires students to submit their suggested names to the athletic department web site before the Jan. 15 deadline. Once all the name ideas have been reviewed, the athletics department will post the 10 finalists on the Kwantlen website and students will be able to vote for their favourite.
â€œThe response has been really good,â€ said Moore, who claims there have been over 60 unique names suggested already.
The winning name will be announced on Jan. 29 at the same time as the school raises the Kwantlen womenâ€™s soccer teamâ€™s championship banner in the Surrey gymnasium prior to both the menâ€™s and womenâ€™s basketball games against Vancouver Island University.
Plans are being drawn up between Kwantlen and the City of Surrey to put a turf soccer field at Newton Athletic Park, down the street from the Surrey campus.
Nothing is official yet, but Gordon Lee, vice-president of finance and administration at Kwantlen, feels that partnering with the city to build the field for Kwantlen’s use would greatly benefit the school.
“We have never put a lot of money into athletics. Over the past 10 years, we’ve created a gym at one campus, and we’ve developed varsity teams in four sports (basketball, soccer, badminton and golf), but again, we have never invested much in facilities,” said Lee.
Lee said that the new field would include a Kwantlen scoreboard, the university’s logo at midfield and seating for 500, but the field wouldn’t be used exclusively by Kwantlen. Since the school is sharing the cost of the field, which Lee estimates to be around $2.5 million, with the city, Surrey soccer teams would be able to use the field. Kwantlen would have priority on which times they get the field.
“The city will go ahead if we don’t partner with them, although we do think it is in the interest of the university to enter into a partnership arrangement with the city to gain access to a field which we can use that would be ours,” Lee said.
For the past five to seven years, Kwantlen has been looking into putting in an athletic field for the school’s use, but there are a couple of challenges that need to be overcome before anything can be put into action.
“There’s not a lot of space and, unfortunately, we need the space right now for parking lots,” said Lee. “The other issue is the cost of putting in a turf field, which is really the only way to go in our climate.”
But now that the field can be built at Newton Athletic Park and with cost-sharing with Surrey, both of those challenges seem to be remedied. All that’s necessary forÂ field construction to start is a stamp of approval from Kwantlen’s Board of Governors.
Lee said Kwantlen’s share of the field cost will be taken out of university resources; none of the money will come out the students’ pockets.
If everything goes ahead as planned, construction of the field will start early in the new year and it should be ready for the 2010 soccer season.
In the future, Lee said that Kwantlen hopes to expand fitness and sports facilities at all campuses to get everyone involved in either competitive or recreational sports, but the problem is the lack of space.
“The Richmond campus is even more of a problem, because there’s no land space around there at all. We have been talking with the City of Richmond about using the Oval after the Olympics and that’s a big possibility for the indoor sports,” he said.
The 2009 season hasnâ€™t started the way the Kwantlen Eagles menâ€™s soccer team had hoped.
Their 0-5 record doesnâ€™t look great, but head coach Richard Goddard said the team has played better than it looks.
â€œWeâ€™re a young team and getting progressively better. The final scores, especially our last game against UNBC, [donâ€™t] dictate the chances weâ€™ve made,â€ said Goddard.
He said that because this yearâ€™s team is young â€“ there are only eight returning players, two of them goalies â€“ some players will make mistakes at the worst times. What needs to happen is getting the players to work through their Â learning curve and have them ready to play at any time.
The fact the players come from different leagues is part of it, too. They still have to learn to play together.
The Eagles have lost twice to UNBC and once to Capilano College this season but Goddard said that they havenâ€™t lost to just any team. Heâ€™s been impressed with the play of both Capilano, a powerhouse in the university menâ€™s soccer world, and UNBC.
Kwantlen looked to turn things around this weekend in Kelowna, against UBC-Okanagan (UBCO), and in Kamloops, against Thompson Rivers University (TRU).
Goddard, who started coaching the team at the beginning of the season, made changes to the line-up for the trip because of many players returning from injury and thought that these changes would make a difference on the field.
â€œWeâ€™re hoping to have a vast majority of players available who are coming back from injury,â€ he said, going into the weekend. â€œI believe we will be better prepared.â€
Those changes didnâ€™t make much of a difference. The Eagles lost 4-0 to UBCO Saturday and 3-1 to TRU Sunday.
The Eaglesâ€™ next home game is this Saturday, Sept. 26, against the Douglas College Royals at noon at Newton Athletic Park.