By Devin Jones
As the Ryerson women’s soccer team prepares for the start of a new season, there’s one thing they’d like everybody to know: this isn’t a rebuilding year.
Last season for the Rams saw a talented mix of veterans and newcomers miss out on a playoff spot by a single point. Needing a win over the Laurentaian Voyageurs to make the post-season for the second time in program history, the Rams lost 1-0, giving the sixth and final playoff spot to Laurentian.
With the addition of six new players in the off-season, as well as the departure of head coach Kevin Souter, the Rams will be working with a fresh roster of faces and plan on building the team with a focus on strong defensive play.
“Our goal is always to build on where we are, so every year we try to build on where we were the year before,” said assistant coach Kristina Cook. “Primarily it’s about coming together as a group. We have a young group so bringing everyone together and getting some cohesion is crucial.”
With strong performances from the defender Sarah Slattery — who was named a second team all-star last year — and rookie Alex Rodkin, who lead the team in scoring with seven goals, the Rams accomplished a 6-9-1 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) record by the end of last season.
By focusing on their defensive skills first, the Rams are looking to rectify issues that hampered them throughout last season. With the emphasis on ball control and protection, the coaching staff believes a strategy of strong defence creating a productive offense is something that will pay off in the long run.
“We’ve been working from defence up and the last two weeks it’s been looking really good, it’s what we’ve been really focusing on,” said midfielder Nicole Pavia. “The team is looking promising, it’s just a matter of finding the other pieces to help build the overall squad.”
Instead of searching for outside help to replace Souter in the role of head coach, this season the Rams have decided to use the head coach of the men’s soccer team, Ivan Joseph, instead. Joseph is stepping away from his role with the men’s team and in his place assistant coach Filip Prostran will take over. Cook will stay in her role as the assistant coach with the women. According to her, the decision was made between athletics staff and there’s no immediate plan for a new head coach.
The women’s soccer team is putting an emphasis on positivity and creating a cohesive unit which they say is vital to their long-term success as an program.
As fresh faces and a experienced but new coach get ready to face a league filled with talent, excitement and a need to prove themselves surrounds the team. Just don’t call it a rebuilding season.