As the McMaster women’s soccer season kicks off, it’s much more than a new campaign – it’s a changing of the guard.
2012 ended with an appearance in the OUA Final Four, with the team dropping the bronze medal game to the CIS finalist Queen’s Gaels. The future was bright as the team exceeded expectations and could expect to return all but two players – both who were graduating.
Except, that continuity never materialized.
“At the end of the season, I asked all the players who was coming back. I wanted everyone at camp, but the reply I got from some players was that they weren’t coming back,” said head coach Brett Mosen.
The coach added that there were players who changed their tune through the summer, but the team had already finished recruiting.
And now, the team stands with 16 players in their first year of eligibility. Compare this with only 11 players with at least a year of OUA competition under their belt, and it looks like a brand new program. The overhauled roster, with an average age of 19, could suffer through significant growing pains as players learn to balance school, athletics and social life, but the team refuses to alter expectations.
“We’ve recruited well and we have players who are capable of stepping up to take us where we want to go,” said Mosen. “The reality of it is, you’re always going to lose players. Let’s lose them quickly and build for where we want to get to. Obviously, where we want to get to is a national championship.”
The greatest concern for Mosen and his coaching staff is the learning curve for young OUA athletes because of the difference between university athletics and their youth clubs. OUA competition involves a larger age range than youth soccer, with the OUA ranging from age 17 to 23 and youth soccer sticking to one birth year. Older players have the upper hand, as they have been able to train at university facilities, have access to strength and conditioning programs, while also playing at the higher level for a longer period of time.
“Right now, the rookies think that what they’ve come away from is how it is, and it’s not. But that’s where coaching comes into it. We’ve got to be patient if we want to get them to another level,” said Mosen.
The women’s squad will not waver from its playing style (which Mosen describes simply as an “attacking style”) and expects its young players to catch up fast.
Mosen admires the senior players for the job they have done to help and advise the rookies with everything involved in their first year of donning the Maroon and Grey.
Taking on such a young group is not an easy task, especially not for a man who is also busy coaching Kitchener-Waterloo United of the Premier Development League, but Mosen is clearly looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m excited about the season, as are the other coaches. These are a group of players we put together, now what can they do at the next level? It is a great team to work with – they aren’t lazy, they work hard and they want to learn. It’s a coach’s dream, really,” said Mosen.
With the majority of the season ahead and a young and eager roster, the bold expectations of a CIS championship could soon be a reality.
Photo c/o Fraser Caldwell.