By: Ryan Tse

The McMaster women’s soccer team has not had the smoothest season. This year’s squad has fought their way to a 2-6-5 record to put them in eighth place in the West conference through 13 games. Three pivotal games remain in the 2017 regular season.

Their record tells the story of an up-and-down season filled with adversity. However, new coach Joe Valvasori sees growth and potential in this team. Valvasori believes that the difficulties are largely due to a learning curve for the players as they adjust to new systems.

“I don’t think our record necessarily reflects the quality of the team or the quality of our play of the squad,” Valvasori said. “It’s funny, you know — new coach, new team, new season. We’re putting in a new system and a new style of play so there’s always growing pains that go along with that.”

The team’s victories over fourth-place Waterloo and second-place Guelph perhaps suggest a stronger team than their record shows. They certainly hint at the squad’s talent and their ability to square off with any team. Coach Valvasori sees a lot of strengths in the group that can form the foundation of a successful team.

“We have a very technical midfield who are very much able to play and are still learning how to play through the midfield. We got great speed out on the flanks, and they are trying to learn how to capitalize.”

McMaster currently sits eighth in the West conference of Ontario University Athletics. Coming off an 8-6-2 season and a fifth-place finish last year, this team has struggled more in comparison, scoring just 14 goals through 13 games while allowing 21.

Yet in terms of qualifying for the playoffs, the team holds their destiny in their own hands. If the players can pull together three wins in the last three games, they will very likely leapfrog both Brock and York to finish in the sixth spot.

The schedule may do them a favour in this respect, as they play last-place Algoma University twice to close out the season. Algoma has gone winless thus far this season, allowing 58 goals while scoring three themselves. Valvasori is confident about the team’s playoff prospects, and once they are in he believes they can do some damage.

“We need three wins in the next three matches,” said Valvasori. “We’re very capable of doing so, and I think if we do what we’re capable of, and if we can get all cylinders firing at the same time, we can compete with any team in our conference heading into the playoffs.”

Despite the tough losses throughout the season, Valvasori is encouraged by the overall improvements of the team. According to him, the team has become much more organized, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the pitch.

The coach has also been impressed by the general positivity of the team. “They’re all positive, they’re all buying in, and they’re all putting in the work, so I have great confidence in their future success,” said Valvasori. “They’re a very cohesive group — no locker room issues, no cliques. They’re all very friendly with each other and they all want to see each other do well.”

As coach Valvasori has implemented new systems and become familiar with the players, he has seen how the key veterans each play different roles in leading the squad and pushing the team forward.

“They’ve all brought different things,” coach Valvasori said. “Mary [Craig] and Ally [Riganelli] are two of our most consistent players. Faye [Stavropolous] and Jessie [Faber] are really good at creating. Cass [Davis] and Steph [Roberts] are good at keeping the squad organized, so everybody is contributing in their own way.”

Valvasori sees a lot to be excited about with this team, both now and in the future. Many older players are expected to return next year, so more growth from the upper end of the team can be expected. Add that to six freshman rookies, and the team’s outlook is quite promising for the rest of this this season and the seasons ahead. As the team continues to develop and learns to maximize on their talent in a well-defined system, the wins will start to come.

“A lot of the older players are only third years, so they still have a couple seasons left,” Valvasori said. “On top of having some good pieces that have come in and I’m sure lots more recruits will come in next year, it’s a pretty solid core to take to the next few seasons.”

For now, the team looks to stay positive and close out the season strong. Based on their progress so far, they appear more than capable to do just that.

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