Those outside the Heat women’s soccer team might need convincing, but winger Maddy Laranjo says the system is working.
The convincing comes when you learn the UBC Okanagan squad is winless in six games this season. They’ve surrendered 18 goals and scored … well, none.
“Honestly, it feels a little unfair because we are doing so well,” said Laranjo, a fourth-year human kinetics major from Vernon.
Is it though? Yes, she says, the players are determined to see it through.
“Obviously our results are not where we want them to be right now,” she continued. “We have possession, we outplay other teams, we’re just not scoring and putting the ball in the back of the net.”
Yeah, that’s a tough one for head coach Craig Smith’s squad. The boss says he’s pleased with everything in the middle of the park, but the Heat has struggled inside it’s own penalty area. Clearly, the Heat is having trouble in the opposition’s 18-yard box, too.
“We just haven’t capitalized on these opportunities,” Laranjo said.
The good news is UBCO has eight games remaining on the schedule — including six straight at home, starting this afternoon at Nonis Field against the UNBC Timberwolves from Prince George. UNBC (3-1-2) defeated the Heat 3-0 in early September in the second game of the season.
On Sunday, the Calgary Dinos arrive to cap the doubleheader on what is UBCO’s homecoming weekend.
Calgary presents a real challenge. The Canada West-leading Dinos (5-0-1) beat the Heat 5-0 in the season opener on Sept. 5.
Smith said he’s convinced the club has deserved better this season, and he doesn’t judge his team’s success solely on results.
“It’s the process that I’m interested in,” he said Friday before practice.
Smith coached the powerful Ottawa Fury women’s team in the United Soccer League for three seasons before coming to Kelowna. Prior to taking up coaching, he was a semi-professional player in his native Scotland and Australia.
Now in his fourth season, Smith said he’s certain the girls are learning a brand of soccer that’s capable of dominating in Canada West.
He doesn’t want them to simply kick and run. He wants them comfortable dribbling, building from the back and cherishing the ball.
It’s a difficult challenge because playing that way exhausts you psychologically and physically. You have to think through every move, and what comes next, not unlike a chess match.
“They have brought me so much to the table,” he said. “It’s tough for them. They just need more experience. It can be a long process.”
Fullback Maya Bandy’s first season at UBCO happened to be Smith’s first season, too. She said that while the coach’s system was familiar to her, it also made more demands of the players. Bandy, 20, admitted she saw “glimpses” of the style she played as a youth with Thompson-Okanagan FC. Almost everything else was new.
“It was challenging,” said Bandy, a graduate of Kalamalka Secondary. “It definitely took time to start to get it. … It was definitely a huge jump.”
Compounded on that is the Canada West style. Bandy said most teams employ a more robust, physical approach to soccer and are willing to chip and charge.
Not only have the Heat tried to embrace a more complicated scheme, they’re also trying to fend off hard-charging opponents.
Now, they just need to put it all together. They need to clean up mistakes in the attacking third of the pitch, while ensuring their defence is tight.
“With each game, we’re getting stronger,” she said. “We wouldn’t really want to play any other way.”
The women’s games at UBCO begin at 1 p.m. today and Sunday. Admission is free.
— The second-place UBCO men are also on the pitch, hoping to get back into the win column after a difficult weekend road trip.
The Heat (6-3-1) fell last weekend 2-1 to a struggling Saskatchewan Huskies team and 1-0 to a stalwart Calgary Dinos squad. It ended the Heat’s five-game unbeaten streak and dropped them out of first place in CanWest’s Pacific Conference.
They host the Fraser Valley Cascades (3-3-3) today and the Trinity Western Spartans (4-4-0) on Sunday.
Earlier this season, the Heat beat TWU 1-0 and drew 1-1 with UFV.
UBCO is anxious to return to Nonis field, where the team has won five of six matches. Both weekend games follow the women’s matches.
— UBCO women’s basketball takes to the court this afternoon for an exhibition contest against the Lethbridge College Kodiaks.
Second-year head coach Bobby Mitchell has added eight new faces to his roster, including former Kelowna Owls teammates Jaeli Ibbetson and Kasey Patchell, as well as Vernon’s Kelsey Falk.
Ibbetson and Patchell were part of the KSS provincial championship team.
Admission is free. Tip-off is 2 p.m. today at the UBCO gym.