by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
Last October the Keyano Huskies became only the third Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) school to win three-or-more consecutive ACAC Men's Soccer Championships when they defeated the NAIT Ooks 1-0 at Sherwood Park's Emerald Hills Sports Pavilion.
The previous year the upstart Huskies had kicked their way to their first ACAC medal with 2014-2015 silver.
During the last four seasons they have showcased their skills with a regular season record of 34 wins 4 ties and 2 losses with 135 goals for and 24 goals against.
Kicking off the 2018-2019 ACAC regular season this Saturday against the visiting NAIT Ooks at Fort McMurray's Shells Place's SMS Equipment Stadium, the outlook is a bit different.
"We are basically starting from scratch as this is a transition year for program," said Huskies first-year coach Macky Singh, who takes over coaching duties for both the men's and women's futsal/soccer programs after guiding the Olds College Broncos men's and women's futsal and soccer squads in ACAC action the last four years.
"With a lot of players graduating (Rodrigo Wogel-Koebsch, three-time North ACAC All Conference, Pedro Bianchi two-time North All-Conference and one time Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association All Canadian) or moving on, we are in a rebuilding phase for the program. It is a different situation from the last four years.
"We are starting fresh for the program. There is no pressure to return (to medal status) and everybody knew that it would be a transition year."
If ACAC accolades matter, Singh does have a two-time North ACAC All Conference midfielder lacing up the cleats for a third consecutive year for the Fort McMurray school in the presence of Eduardo Filho.
"He is one of the top players from the last few years," said Singh of the 6-foot-1 Filho from Paracatu, Brazil. "He has the drive and motivation. He will be a key player in the program. He is part of the glue from the gold medal winning teams for the young players."
Other key returning student/athletes include: backs Neto Maguel, Gabriel Koebsch and Garret Edwards along with goalie Jonathan Bruggeling.
"Jonathan will probably see a bit more action (shots on goal)," admits Singh, who was the ACAC Men's Soccer South Conference Coach of the Year in 2017-2018. "But it will depend on how we play overall. He knows how to handle himself and he is one of the top goalies in the (North Conference)."
Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves have medaled every year in ACAC post season women's soccer since 2013-2014 when they captured bronze by edging Medicine Hat College Rattlers 3-1.
What followed was: 2014-2015, bronze, Wolves 1 Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder 0; 2015-2016, bronze, Wolves 2, Red Deer Queens 1 (penalty kicks); 2016-2017, silver, Wolves 1, NAIT Ooks 2 and last year was gold status by outscoring Ooks 2-1 (penalty kicks).
Like ACAC men's soccer defending champion Huskies, Grande Prairie are also in a "rebuilding season." according to Wolves women's soccer head coach Chris Morgan.
"When 14 players leave...it has to be a total rebuilding season," says Morgan. "We will be leaning on the four or five returning players and their experience from the last few years. Sometimes you do not know what to expect and our past two seasons have been good for us and we are going to try to continue."
The five players of mention are third-year goalie Michelle Brodeur, and second-year student/athletes; defender Calandra Bychyk and midfielders Alex Verhun, Madi Gillespie, Sam Wiancko.
|Michelle Brodeur, goal keeper GPRC Wolves|
"For me, Michelle (Brodeur) is the best keeper in the league," said Morgan, the 5-foot-5 keeper from Edmonton allowing only eight goals in 10 regular season contests in 2017-2018. "She will be busier than she has been in previous years."
Morgan says of Bychyk, a two-sport athlete last year suiting up for the Wolves women's volleyball squad, "she is a big strong player."
Of Verhun, who had one goal and one assist in 10 appearances: "She will be captain this year and she is a workhorse. She had a good season last year in her rookie season."
With Gillespie recording three goals last season, Morgan expects "Bigger and better things from her this year."
With two fifth-year centrebacks last year, Wiancko did not see much field time: "Hopefully she will do well for us."
Morgan anticipates a bright future for two rookies in the presence of midfielder Sydney Embleton and defender Kaitlin Buziak.
"Sydney will do well for us," Morgan said of the Vernon Secondary School graduate. "She had an impressive preseason."
|Alex Verhun, GPRC Wolves|
Arriving from North Peace Secondary High School in Fort St. John, B.C., "Buziak is fast and quick and reads the game well."
Wolves open the 2018-2019 campaign hosting The Kings University Eagles.