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Following a series of exhibition matches, the 2017 season of Canadian University Women’s Soccer officially kicked off on Friday, August 25 with Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference matches.
The Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) conference, which translates to the “Quebec Student Sports Network”, will see action on Thursday, August 31, followed by Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA) on Saturday, September 2 and Atlantic University Sport (AUS) on Friday, September 8.
The four conferences play under the Canadian university sports governing body U SPORTS, formerly known as Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) before it was re-branded in fall of 2016.
Last year’s champions (2016, 2014) Université Laval will begin their season against Bishop’s University. Their offense is led by captain Arielle Roy-Petitclerc, the reigning U SPORTS female athlete of the year.
Roy-Petitclerc is also captaining the women’s soccer team representing Canada at the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taiwan, an international sporting event that brings together some of the world’s best student-athletes, alongside five of her Laval teammates.
The Rouge et Or, Red and Gold as the Laval varsity teams are known, is a roster in transition, but they are up for the task of defending their U SPORTS title.
“We lost nine players this year, including four of the starting 11,” says head coach Helder Duarte. “It will be a tougher year, but we are confident [that we will make the most out of it]."
Duarte, who’s been in charge of the Laval program since 1995, named goalkeeper Marie-Joëlle Vandal among his key players, in addition to Mélissa Roy, Joëlle Gosselin, Roxanne Dionne and rookie Dominique Fortin, who “is certainly the best collegiate player in Quebec and will be an important asset for the coming years.”
Within the RSEQ, Duarte anticipates that the Université de Montréal will pose a particular challenge. “[They are] a team that never gives up and can always hurt you when you least expect it.
”“But at the same time, if we have become competitive, it is thanks to them,” Duarte admits. “They force us to surpass ourselves and to be better.”
University of British Columbia (UBC), the winningest U SPORTS women’s soccer team with six titles (2015, 2006, 2003, 2002, 1993, 1987), will be looking to improve upon last year’s second place finish behind Laval.
“We have most of our players returning from last year and a mature group of players that also were a part of the national championship team in 2015,” says second year head coach Jesse Symons.
“We are very motivated to get to a higher level at the end of the season than where we were last year. It is a difficult journey with lots of games we need to get through… We are a team that wants to get back to nationals (like most teams) and feel with our experience that we have gained, we have the ability to manage our emotions and quality.”
To stay sharp during the off-season, UBC was well represented with eight players on the North Shore Girls Soccer Club, the only Canadian team in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL), as well as other local clubs in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
Symons noted University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), University of Victoria (UVic) and Trinity Western University (TWU) as some of their toughest competition in their western division of the Canada West conference. “We start our season on the road at UVic and then TWU and UFV, so it will be a telling start to the season with us matching up out of the gate this year.”
After the UBC Thunderbirds, TWU owns the second most women’s soccer championships with five (2013, 2012, 2009, 2008, 2004).
Fans can watch matches live and on demand on the U SPORTS website.
Fifty-four teams will compete for their spot in the 2017 U SPORTS women’s soccer championship tournament hosted by the University of Manitoba in November. University of Ottawa will serve as hosts in 2018.
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