Blues soccer looks to take PACWEST throne

Capilano’s soccer program hasn’t been this strong on both fronts in a decade and will look to capitalize this weekend

Justin Scott // Managing Editor

This weekend, Squamish’s Quest University will play host to the 2017 Pacific Western Athletic Association’s (PACWEST) Soccer Championships. From Oct. 27 to 29 the top four men and women’s teams will faceoff in single-elimination matches with the respective winners securing a spot at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s (CCAA) national tournament. The women’s team semi-finals will begin today (Friday) and their finals on Saturday, while the men’s team will play their semi-finals on Saturday with the finals on Sunday. For the Blues, this year presents an opportunity where both men and women’s team have legitimate shots at winning the PACWEST and representing the province at nationals.

The Men’s Team

Having won the PACWEST two years running, the men’s team entered the season with immense pressure on them, both internally and externally. Although they had a revamped roster, much of the core remained, and they expected nothing less than last season.

Coming off an undefeated season last year, the men completed this season with an 8-2-2 record, which was enough to earn them a second-place finish in the league. While a top-four finish was required to secure a spot in the PACWEST’s playoffs, according to Head Coach Paul Dailly, the season is now behind them. “The season’s over, this is what counts,” he said.

The men’s first match is the semi-finals where they will meet the Douglas College Royals. “Right now, we’re just focusing on Douglas, it’s going to be a hard game,” said team captain Keith Jackson. While the Royals finished only one spot behind the Blues in the standings, their season was not of the same calibre. The Royals finished with a 5-5-2 record, trailing the Blues by nine points in the standings. However, the men are not taking this game lightly.

“Douglas is strong offensively so we’re focusing on defense and stopping them,” explained Dailly. According to Jackson, the team has been focusing on strength throughout the week in preparation for Saturday’s game. And while they are not getting ahead of themselves, both Jackson and Dailly expect to be playing for a gold medal on Sunday against either the Quest University Kermodes or the Vancouver Island University Mariners (VIU).

“It’s most likely going to be VIU,” Jackson said. “They’ve picked up some players over the off-season and had some fifth-year players come back.” This is a sentiment that Dailly agreed with cautiously. “VIU are the favorites, but that’s why the game is played,” he said.

Whether it’s the Mariners or the Kermodes, the Blues believe that they will be the ones to come away with the gold. “I have no doubt that we are the best team in the PACWEST,” Jackson said with commanding confidence. “We have the best backline with [Andres] Romo, Nic Morello, Joel [Prasad], we have the best goalie in the PACWEST – if not the whole CCAA – in Hudson Nelles, so I fully do believe that we can get other gold medal and accomplish the three-peat,” he explained.

The team received an additional boost of confidence this week as Jackson was named PACWEST Player of the Year and Dailly Coach of the Year. While they were both honored by the acknowledgements, they unsurprisingly shared the same team-first attitude. “It feels good, but really it won’t mean anything if we don’t win the gold medal,” said Jackson. “It’s an individual award and it feels good now but if we don’t make nationals it will mean absolutely nothing to me.”

Dailly, who’s won the award three years running with seven to his name, reflected the same mindset. He was excited for Jackson and believes that the awards will give the team a mental boost. Joining Jackson in the Conference All-Star Team are Morello and Nelles.

The Women’s Team

For the Blues women’s team, this is looking to be their breakthrough year. After finishing with a bronze medal at last year’s tournament, the team looked reinvigorated and had its sights set high this year. At the beginning of the season, the women set a goal of making it to nationals, and after a rollercoaster of a season, they believe they have what it takes. They also finished second in the PACWEST and other than their final two games, had a strong finish to the season.

“We were just in our heads thinking, ‘we have to win this to come first.’ We were looking long term instead of game-by-game,” explained team captain Dominika Paige. And while their end-of-season push to claim the league’s top spot may have done more harm than good, they’ve put last weekend behind them and are focused on this weekends tournament.

They’re not the most experienced team in the tournament, with eight rookies on the roster. However, their first-year players have been among the several bright spots of this season. Defender Claire Ye and midfield Adrianna Babinski were both named to the PACWEST Conference All-Star Team, with Ye capping off an impressive first year with the PACWEST Rookie of the Year award.

The Blues women’s will face off against the Langara College Falcons on Friday, a team they beat twice this the season. Paige believes the team should get through the first round unscathed if they can keep possession of the ball and finish on their opportunities – something they struggled with throughout the season.

If the Blues come away with a victory on Friday, they’ll meet either the Mariners or the Royals in Saturday’s final. While the Mariners is an older and more experienced team, Paige believes it will be the Royals who will be playing for the gold. “I feel like we’ll be playing Douglas, our rivals,” she said in anticipation of Saturday.

And while the team’s Head Coach, Dennis Kindel, may not always be the most vocal, that doesn’t mean he’s not giving his team all the right cues and advice. “His actions speak louder than his words,” Paige said of her head coach.

While Saturday’s gold medal game, and nationals after that, are the team’s goal, they have to win first on Friday. “I’m more excited than last year because I feel like we have a chance to go far,” Paige reflected. “If we do good in the first game, the momentum’s just going to carry us on Saturday in the final.”

With just two games standing between the team and their goal of a cross-country trip to Nova Scotia to play for a national gold, the team is locked in and focused. “I feel like we can actually do it this year. Last year it was there but no one was hungry enough for it, but this year I feel like this is the team,” Paige concluded.

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