For the women’s team, the 14-game regular season has produced impressive results.
Janine Frazao seized the Canada West record for goals scored (16), and the team collectively broke their own 2008 records in the conference for fewest goals allowed (5) and most shutouts (11). They placed second to a Trinity Western side that won every game—except the ones they played against the Thunderbirds.
But according to head coach Mark Rogers, the challenge is now to channel that output into a new format: single elimination.
“The whole mentality changes now,” Rogers said. “It’s about making sure we’re ruthless in our preparation, making sure that we’re completely focused on that one performance to start with.”
The University of Alberta Pandas are the T-Birds’ first round opponents, with Trinity Western and Victoria in the other semifinal. They defeated UBC 2-0 in September—handing them their only defeat of the year—but the Pandas fell by the same margin when they visited Thunderbird Park on October 21.
Rogers said the change in tactics in that game worked, dulling their vicious counterattack and strength in possession. “One of Alberta’s big strengths is that they pass the ball very well,” he said. “[What] we wanted to do was get a little bit more first-defender pressure on the ball [and] try to force them into poor decisions.”
Rogers is pleased about not having to travel far to play. The tournament is hosted at Trinity Western in Langley, preventing a longer trip over the Rocky Mountains.
Overall, the strength Rogers sees in the side is the tight-knit group of players that combine defence with attack to create pressure and hold the other team up the pitch.
“In an 11-a-side game, it’s the sum of all parts. We defend from front to back,” he said. “You don’t keep 11 clean sheets unless you’re a unit, you’re all on the same page and frankly, you’re all in it together.”