The move from a small conference to the CIS this season has the Wesmen soccer teams feeling some growing pains.
At the halfway point of the regular season, both squads are sporting losing records.
It’s a far cry from the teams’ former dominance of the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference, where the Wesmen women outscored opponents 54-1, and the men went two years undefeated.
In the CIS, both teams have struggled to score goals and have been plagued by key injuries.
The two perspectives on the season’s potential, though, couldn’t be more different.
Box scores show the men’s team with a record of 2-3-1, with only seven goals in six games. However, two of those games came against nationally top-ranked Alberta, with another two coming against Saskatchewan, which is ranked ninth.
With unranked Winnipeg coming out of those four games with a tie and a relatively easier schedule ahead, positive vibes are beaming from men’s head coach Pedro Daza.
“We’ve had injuries, but with our starting 11 and a strong, healthy bench, I think we can compete against anybody,” said Daza.
Daza has been shuffling his players early with defender injuries forcing him to move captain Adam Bromley back from his natural midfield position.
Kenny Sacramento, last year’s Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference leading goal scorer, has also gone down due to injury.
“We’ve been very up and down so far,” said Daza.
“With some adjustments on the field and some wins in key games against Calgary and Lethbridge coming up, I think we still have a chance for the playoffs.”
As of press time, the Wesmen men’s team is just one point back of Lethbridge for the last playoff spot in the Canada West conference.
Meanwhile, playoff hopes for the women’s team are already fading fast.
With five losses and opponents outscoring them 22-1 in six games to start the year, it’s been a mighty struggle for the CIS rookies.
Head coach Mick Gale, however, isn’t putting his head down.
“We lost a forward because of an ankle injury and we haven’t had a goalkeeper consistently because of a shoulder injury,” said Gale.
“I’m not making excuses, though. We’re loving it. We’re enjoying it. I’m probably the only upbeat person in the soccer program.”
Gale points out that regardless of his team’s play, he can’t put a price on the experience they’re getting in the CIS.
“Seven of those girls we’re putting out there are rookies. This experience can’t be bought for them,” said Gale.