Craig Smith’s approach to soccer seems simple enough — keep the ball at your feet, don’t give it away — but he considers it courageous to play that way.
It takes courage because sometimes the urge to “kick and run” rather than trusting in your skills and your teammates can get the best of even the most seasoned players.
“We want to create chances through good, possession football,” he said Wednesday. “It takes a lot of courage for them to play the way we want to play.”
It will all be put to a stiff test tonight when Smith’s UBC Okanagan Heat women’s team opens the Canada West season in Calgary against the Dinos.
UBCO heads into Calgary having missed the playoffs last season with a 3-9-2 record. Calgary was ranked third in preseason polls thanks to a 13-1 record in 2018. The Dinos scored 33 goals and allowed just five while finishing fifth in Canada a year ago.
Smith said he’s not worrying about the preseason prognostications. In fact, he sees making the Calgary trip now beneficial.
“It’ll be great,” he said. “We’ll really see where we’re at. … There’s no pressure on us.”
It’s also acting as a team-building trip. The Heat stayed quiet all preseason, relying on scrimmages and training over scheduled friendly matches.
Smith is also anxious to see how his team will adjust to the varsity level.
He likes what he’s seen so far in Kamloops striker Yvonne Manwaring who has “hit the ground running.” Calgary midfielder Catriona McFadden is “another one who can change a game.”
Hailey Wright, a rookie from Kelowna, proves there’s talent locally able to build a program that benefits the community.
UBCO has 15 players in their first or second seasons, and will look to third-year midfielder Erica Lampert of Kelowna for leadership.
“The next couple of years (are going to be) very exciting,” Smith said.
The next couple of days, too.
After the Calgary game, UBCO is back on an airplane and flying to Prince George to face the UNBC Timberwolves on Saturday.
As for the Heat approach, they want to hold the ball and pull the opposition out of position and expose the ensuing gaps.
That, however, can lead to turnovers in sensitive areas of the pitch.
Again, that’s where the courage comes into play. Smith said he needs his players to have faith in their abilities.
“We rely on trust, not hope,” Smith said.
2018: 3-9-2, 7th in the Pacific
Head coach: Craig Smith (4th Season) / 9-27-6 (Career CW regular season record)
2018 CW regular season ranks:
• Offence: 10 goals, 14th in CW
• Defence: 29 goals against, 12th in CW
2018 CW regular season leaders:
• Goals: 2 – Jessica Ambrosio, F, Ally Ferronato, D, Kylee Walker, M
• Assists: 2 – Jasmine Cooper, F, Jillian Hunt, M
• Points: 3 – Jessica Ambrosio, F, Ally Ferronato, D
• Wins: 2 – Iona Lawson, GK
• Shutouts: 1/1 – Emma Terrillon, GK
Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):
• Alexandra Green / D / 3 / Toronto / Spring Arbor University
• Yvonne Manwaring / F / 1 / Kamloops / TOFC
• Aspen Marsden / D / 1 / Calgary Blizzrd
• Catriona McFadden / M / 1 / Calgary / Calgary Southwest United
• Luisa Rodriguez / M / 1 / Pitt Meadows, B.C. / Coquitlam Metro Ford FC
• Hailey Wright / F / 1 / Kelowna / TOFC
Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):
• Lindsey Berthelsen / D / Edmonton / 4
• Jasmine Cooper / F / Salt Spring Island, BC / 5
• Ally Ferronato / D / Calgary / 4
• Erica Lampert
Noted as a key performer in her rookie season, Erica Lampert has developed into the player coach Smith envisioned when she came out of Kelowna Secondary three years ago.
Entering her third year, Lampert will once again be counted on to be a lynchpin for the Heat on both defense and offense. With the graduation of two long time backline players and leaders in Berthelsen and Ferronato, she will be asked to control the team on the field and in the clubhouse.
The Heat This Week
THURSDAY, SEP 5th
Soccer (W) | Canada West conference opener 5 PM PDT | UBC Okanagan Heat (0-0-0) at the Calgary Dinos (0-0-0) @ Dinosaur Field, Calgary
FRIDAY, SEP 6th
Soccer (M) | Canada West conference match 7 PM | UBC Okanagan Heat (3-1-0) at the UFV Cascades (1-2-1) @ MRC Sports Complex, Abbotsford
SATURDAY, SEP 7th
Soccer (W) | Canada West conference match 12 PM | UBC Okanagan Heat (0-0-0) at the UNBC Timberwolves (0-0-0) @ Masich Place Stadium, Prince George
SATURDAY, SEP 7th
Soccer (M) | Canada West conference match 7 PM | UBC Okanagan Heat (3-1-0) at the Trinity Western Spartans (0-2-0) @ Chase Office Field, Langley