After a historically long layoff, the Women’s soccer team kicks off the new season
By Gage Smith, Sports Editor
Sept. 4 was the first gameday for a Mount Royal University (MRU) Cougars team since 2019. After a year off, the women’s soccer team started their season against the University of Calgary Dinos.
Sharnae Sedres expected her 2020 to involve donning the MRU Cougars uniform and competing against other Canada West teams. The pandemic had other plans.
“Not being able to kick the ball around just felt weird,” Sedres said.
Tino Fusco, Head Coach of the MRU Women’s Soccer Team, had the unenviable job of breaking that news to his team.
“I think there were different stages of emotions that a lot of us went through,” Fusco said. “Usually a little bit of anger, a little bit of disappointment, and then acceptance. We all did the best that we could during that time.”
Similar to everyone else dealing with the sudden shift to online life, the team had to find new ways to stay physically and mentally healthy. According to Fusco, the team stayed in constant communication through the extended offseason to stay on the same page.
“Our team is really close. We’d have game nights and other fun stuff planned online through Google Meet or Zoom. It was a good way to keep us connected and to get to know this season’s incoming new players. I feel like it was really important that we had those times set aside to play some games and get to know everyone,” Sedres added.
Keeping spirits high was critical, but it’s tough to be a university sports team without staying in shape. Coach Fusco had to find new ways to keep the team in game-ready condition. The main strategy was to have their strength and conditioning coaches work with individual players and find ways for them to work out in their home environments using tools accessible to them.
Fusco also pushed his players more on the tactical side of the game than he normally would have, giving them even more game film to study and reflect on.
“Ultimately, we just had to adapt our coaching style,” Fusco said.
The time away from regular practices and games was a break for the players in some ways, but as the pandemic dragged on, they became increasingly eager to get back to the sport they know and love.
“It’s a relief to finally be back. Playing soccer with my teammates is one of my favourite ways to spend time. They’re my family. Being with them every single day, being able to train hard with them and go out for dinners and connect again feels really good. It’s great to be doing that rather than sitting at home staring at blank walls in your room.” Sedres said.
Even after the long hours of boredom that many online MRU students can relate to, Sedres said the start of the season snuck up on her. She said the whole team was especially excited to get out there on Sept. 4 to face the Dinos.
“It’s the Battle of Calgary so I think everyone on our team’s looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great match. Our team is looking really strong,” she said.
Coach Fusco was also looking forward to the first game of the new season, saying he’s ready to “get back to that competitiveness we all strive for in sport.”
The women’s soccer team plays on Saturday, Sept. 11th against Lethbridge, Saturday the 18th against Alberta, and Sunday the 19th against MacEwan, all at home. With the warmer weather, early September is a great time to go to a game. Come support your Cougars this fall!