It is the same unfortunate story as a year ago.
Last season, head coach Brett Mosen and the women’s soccer team had plenty of reasons to be optimistic. They had a healthy mix of talented veterans, along with some fresh recruits who could make an immediate impact while getting acclimatized to the more physical style of play in the OUA. But injuries quickly ravaged the roster and young players were forced to play big minutes. Experienced members of the team were moved into different positions in order to compensate for the lack of bodies.
Mosen was encouraged because of the team’s offseason progress in 2014, saying that the squad broke fitness test records and played well within the team’s style. His optimism was short-lived.
“Out 25 players on our roster, eight of our players are injured,” said Mosen.
Some of the injuries are significant losses to the squad. Marisa Bremner, an OUA first-team all-star in her rookie season, has suffered a serious injury to her ACL. Rookie central defender Taylor McIvor tore her ACL also and will not use a year of eligibility while she is in rehab.
Another player has a concussion; one has a possible serious injury in her foot. It is too early to call it a lost season, but with the concise schedule and back-to-back games, it is not looking to be a campaign to remember.
“We’re back to square one. We started off so excited about the season and the style of play that we were going to bring forward, but now we’re into a similar scenario as last year where we are asking ‘how can we steal results?’” said Mosen.
With two consecutive seasons marred by injuries, the coaching staff has begun to look into their own practice and recovery methods. There are a variety of factors in play about why McMaster has struggled to stay healthy.
“The easiest thing to criticize is turf, then cleats come into it, and I think we need to look at those things for sure. But we need to look at our strength and conditioning program too. Are we recovering the right way? Are we doing a good enough assessment on players come in individually?” said Mosen.
“I don’t think you can just point your finger at one specific thing. But it’s got everybody’s attention because this is the second year in a row that this is happening to us.”
Turf play has become a controversial issue as people question the safety of playing on the surfaces. A study of young female soccer players published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that there was “similar” risk of acute injury on both artificial turf and natural grass.
A 2010 study found more non-contact ACL injuries happen on turf than on natural grass, but did not account for variables like the type of cleats being worn.
The CIS soccer season is also relatively condensed: teams play 16 games over the span of Aug. 30 to Oct. 19. Eight of those games come in back-to-back scenarios.
And because of that short schedule, McMaster has no time to dwell on losses, both to the roster and in the standings. Another season could come and goes quietly if the team does not rally.