There’s nothing like scoring 10 goals and posting two shutouts to prepare you for the regular season.
The UBC Okanagan Heat men’s soccer team opens the Canada West season tonight and Saturday at Nonis Field against the UNBC Timberwolves.
Game time both nights is 5:30 p.m. The Heat finished the preseason 2-1-1, and that includes two convincing victories in Washington State last weekend — a 3-0 win over Whatcom College and a 7-0 drubbing of Skagit Valley.
UBCO coach Dante Zanatta said his club will use those performances as a confidence booster, but not much more.
“Scoring goals is crucial, just for confidence,” he told The Daily Courier on Thursday night. “We had a good chat that they had a good weekend, but it’s going to be a bit different come Friday and Saturday.”
The Heat needs all the confidence it can find.
UBCO went 2-9-5 last season, or seventh in the division and out of the playoffs.
The squad has only lost two starters — Shaun Pilcher and Bret Depner — and brought in six freshmen in hopes of reversing their fortunes.
“We needed to improve the squad,” Zanatta said.
“We weren’t good, and that’s honest.”
Their reigning MVP, Hamish Walde of Salt Spring Island, is back for his fifth season and should lend stability and leadership—with the occasional goal for good measure.
Heading into this season, the defender had played 48 games for the Heat and had scored seven times, two of those being game winners.
Not bad for the back-line anchor.
He scored three times last season alone.
“He’s looking to continue the good work he’s done,” said Zanatta.
Luke Warkentin, with five goals, and Corbin Beauchemin, with two, are also back in the fold.
Nicholas Reitsma, who started all 16 matches last season in goal, is hoping to improve on his three-shutout season from a year ago.
“We’ve had a good preseason and we’ve got a good vibe in the group,” the coach said.
Zanatta brought in the six freshmen in hopes of providing some spark and timely goals to put UBCO into the playoff picture.
Pierson Stanley, a first-year striker from North Vancouver, scored four goals over the weekend while fellow rookies Jacob York and Mark Lawrance also scored.
Zanatta said there was a “spirited” feel to training camp, with everyone trying to prove they’re quality players.
“They have great potential,” he said of the recruiting class. “They’ve all shown some good moments in preseason, so it’s just a matter of how they deal with the reality of the USports season.”
As for the opposition, UNBC graduated 10 players from a squad that went 5-4-6 in 2018.
Goaltender Rob Goodey is the only returning starter, and you can bet the Heat wishes he had graduated. He blanked UBCO 0-0 and 1-0 last season.
The results eliminated UBCO from playoff contention.
“They have a good program with a good coach, and we’ve always had very competitive games with them,” Zanatta said. “They’ve never really been high scoring because they’re very well organized.
“Hopefully we can take advantage of playing at home.”
HOT SHOTS — Kelowna players on the team are goalie Reitsma, defender Spencer Young, midfielder Taylor Piche, midfielder Corbin Beauchemin, defender Sam McDonald and forward Lucas Hicklin. … This is Zanatta’s ninth season as head coach. … The Heat plays twice more at home next weekend, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 vs. the Victoria Vikes. … The UBCO women’s team plays an alumni game Saturday at 1 p.m. before starting the regular season on Aug. 31 at Simon Fraser. … All home games are free to attend.