By Mitchell Fox
Toronto Metropolitan University’s (TMU) women’s soccer team is excited to pursue a third-straight postseason berth with their season just around the corner.
Sam Naus, a senior defender and one of three captains on the team, said players are “hyped up,” as it feels like it has been forever since the 2021 season ended. Senior midfielder Brooke Pearson—a Second-Team Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East All-Star in 2019—added that the team is feeling the adrenaline as the season approaches.
“The vibe going into the season is optimistic, excited, curious [and] really driven,” said Pearson.
TMU finished the 2021 regular season with a 5-3-2 record and qualified for the postseason riding a six-game unbeaten streak. However, their playoff run was cut short, falling 2-0 to the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees in an OUA quarter-final match.
The squad will kick-off its 2022 season with a rematch against them on Sept. 4 at Downsview Park. Pearson said the team is expecting nothing less than the competitive programs the Gee-Gees have fielded in years past.
“We’re so pumped to go out and put on a good performance on the field”
Naus is also looking forward to the match even though TMU only holds one victory over UOttawa in program history.
“We’re so pumped to go out and put on a good performance on the field,” said Naus.
“I have the utmost faith in our girls that if we go in with a clear mindset and a clear gameplan, we will have a positive result,” they added.
One big change the team will face in 2022 is the OUA moving back to a two-division format.
Last year’s soccer schedule was condensed to 10 matches and featured a Central Division in addition to the usual East and West divisions to allow for more regional play in the face of the pandemic.
TMU is back in the East Division this year, which includes the 2021 OUA Champion Queen’s Gaels, the Nipissing Lakers, who only lost once in last year’s regular season, and the Gee-Gees, who went undefeated before being eliminated by the Gaels in the semi-final.
Naus said the competition in the division is higher than what the team faced last year, but they will still treat it like any other season.
“Better competition means better soccer,” said Naus. “So we’re very excited to—not even step up to the challenge, but I believe that our team is at that level with the competition in our grouping this year.”
Making the playoffs would see TMU gain a third-straight postseason ticket for the first time in program history.
Naus said accomplishing that feat would be “very meaningful” for them and other senior players on the team, especially since they were on the first TMU women’s soccer outfit to make the second round of the playoffs in 2019.
“If we do it again this year and get to the second round, even third round, even nationals, that would be amazing to break history again for the school,” said Naus.
While a playoff berth is something the team wants to repeat from last season, there are other areas in which the 2022 campaign will differ from 2021. Lead assistant coach John Yacou is stepping into the interim bench boss role while coach Natalie Bukovec is on maternity leave.
Naus and company want to play hard under Yacou, a coach the group has gotten to know over the years.
“We’re up for the challenge that he brings us”
“We’re up for the challenge that he brings us,” said Naus. “Hopefully [we can] get a good result for this season and go further than we have before, especially for coach Johnny.”
A strong start to the campaign will also be key because the short length of the OUA season leaves little room to catch up if the team hits a slump. Getting decisions at home will be crucial because five of the team’s matches in the second half of the year are on the road.
“The first half of the season is probably more important than the second half,” said Pearson. “Everybody’s fresh, that’s less injuries, that’s when you gotta get those three points.”
In addition to reaching the postseason again, Pearson said the team hopes to create a long lasting legacy for the program.
“[We want to] continue to build this program so more and more people say ‘Hey, I want to go to TMU and play on their soccer team’ and sort of build that legacy, that respect, that I think our university deserves,” said Pearson.