The 2018-19 Canada West women's soccer season kicks off this Saturday for Head Coach Tino Fusco and the Mount Royal Cougars women's soccer team. The Cougars look to take the next step and build on last year's playoff run which saw the team fall in penalties to the MacEwan Griffins.
According to veteran Erin Holt getting over the hurdle of the first round continues to be a priority. "I think we want to keep building on what we have been in the past few years," said Holt. "We've made it to playoffs, but we obviously haven't made it past the first round the last couple years so I think this year we want to push through that and see how far we can go."
Last year, the Cougars came flying out of the gates, earning a resounding seven points in the first three games before ultimately finishing fifth place in the Prairie Division with a record of 4-6-4. In the playoffs, Mount Royal played in Edmonton against the Griffins. With the scored even at 1-1, the game moved to extra time where MacEwan took the lead; however, before the final whistle could be blown Navroop Virk scored for the Cougars which sent the game to a penalty kick shootout. It was heartbreak though for MRU as the Cougars were a crossbar short of advancing and dropped the game 3-2 (4-3 on PK).
When asked to reflect on the previous season Fusco was honest about the team's lack of offence. "Last year was a success in the sense that we got to playoffs, we managed to fight our way through that playoff game and we came close to winning it. From an analytical or statistical side though, we weren't better than the year before, we didn't get enough shots. So this year we went and got some attacking players that we feel are going to shoot the ball. That's something that we really are going to focus on this year, getting the ball into good areas and shooting the ball."
In addition to the shift in mentality, there was a tremendous amount of re-tooling to the roster by Fusco and his staff. Nine new players join the team, seven are rookies, which replace the five athletes who graduated from the program last year. There will be competition in each position as the large roster allows Fusco to rotate players when needed. Look for the attacking midfielder from down under, Natalie De Marco to join the likes of Erin Holt and Jullien Ramirez as the teams key attacking players.
At the back, senior centreback Claire Thorimbert and crew look to hold down the fort. She echoed her coach's excitement in the teams' new-look attack. "We definitely are a younger team but with that youth comes a more attacking mentality," said Thorimbert. "We brought in a lot of attacking minded players so the energy is different than last year. I think we can go further this year than we ever have."
The Cougars begin the season on the road first playing the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns who earlier in the preseason nicked a 1-0 win from MRU. The following day they play their crosstown rivals the Dinos at the University of Calgary. They will finally return to Mount Royal's Stadium Field Saturday, September 15 when they host the UBC Okanagan Heat and Sunday, September 16 when they host the TRU Wolfpack. Both of those games kickoff at 11:00AM.