Fall has barely begun, and the soccer season in Canada’s top collegiate sporting body, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), is in full swing, but support in the stands for the Wesmen soccer teams is shockingly scant.
Despite having a regulation size soccer field inside the $40-million RecPlex, the CIS considers soccer an outdoor sport, which leaves the Wesmen playing home games at 900 Waverly St.
With the teams facing tough matches ahead, players from both squads feel some boosterism and school spirit would go a long way.
Since their inaugural 2013 season, the women’s side has recorded four regular season victories - and holds a bleak history of 34 losses - but the 2016 squad is off to a strong start to the campaign.
After the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) match, Winnipeg goalkeeper Taylor Thorkelsson joked that the Sept. 9 4-0 victory may be the first time the Wesmen were on the right side of such a score.
“Our team morale is looking very positive this season,” Thorkelsson says, adding that compared to basketball, where the team is together for 10 months, soccer’s short three- or four-month season makes gelling as a team more challenging.
Also a member of the Wesmen women’s basketball team, Thorkelsson has been taking on a leadership role to bring the players in front of her together. Team meetings are just one addition that allows the squad to bond.
According to the keeper, “[the] number one goal this year is to make playoffs.”
She believes that if the team can “come together and play well when it counts,” they can certainly contend for a playoff berth.
The Wesmen will likely be up against a big crowd when they play the University of Manitoba Bisons at Investors Group Field on Oct. 6, and Thorkelsson says seeing a cheering crowd made up of more than just parents could boost motivation for the Wesmen players.
In the preseason, the Wesmen defeated the Herd 1-0 on Aug. 26.
Exiting September the squad is 1-8-1, sitting only ahead of MacEwan in the conference. Starting the second half, the team aims to hit the reset button, and a 2-0 victory over University of the Fraser Valley on Sept. 23rd helps.
Team captain Braeden Hidalgo-Mazzei believes the squad can “get a couple of wins on the board.”
Four challenging games are ahead, including a doubleheader with the third-place Calgary Dinos and Pacific Division matches against heavyweights Trinity Western and University of the Fraser Valley, and four evenly matched contests remain with two games against MacEwan and two against Saskatchewan.
Looking ahead, Hidalgo-Mazzei says he hopes better results on the pitch and more support in the stands will boost morale and help “all the players regain their confidence.”
Despite playing home games off-campus, seeing more students in the stands could go a long way. Hidalgo-Mazzei thinks more support is possible.
“Having more fans there to cheer us on, support us, to be our ‘12th’ man on the field would be much appreciated by everyone on the team, because I think we all need extra support as we go through this rough period,” he says.
The men’s team closes out the season at home on Oct. 22nd and 23rd against MacEwan.
Wesman home games are played at Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex (900 Waverly St).
Schedules are available on wesmen.ca. Admission to games is free with a UWinnipeg student ID card. Regular tickets are $9 for adults, $5 for students and are free for children 12 and under accompanied by an adult.