By Dale Woodard on July 28, 2021.
The Lethbridge College Kodiaks women’s soccer team is looking to build on bronze.
Following their third place finish at the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference provincials in 2019, the Kodiaks now seek to climb the medal rankings as they gear up for the 2021 ACAC season.
After watching their 2020 ACAC season get sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic last fall, the Kodiaks took the first steps of gearing up for the new season at their ID camp Sunday afternoon.
When the season kicks off, the goal is to upgrade that ACAC medal and represent the league at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship.
“We’re excited and pushing to make our next step now,” said Kodiaks head coach Sean Carey. “We have to get to that gold medal championship and that’s the goal.
“Winning the South Division was a huge achievement for the girls and it’s really given an interest to some of the young girls. We’re excited, we just want to get going and just get on the field. It’s been a long time since the girls were on the field.”
Kodiaks returning centre back Lauren Gray was a rookie when the Kodiaks went on their 2019 run.
She remembered the crushing double overtime loss to the Concordia College Thunder in the semifinal before regrouping to blank the SAIT Trojans 1-0 in the bronze medal game.
“It was really hard, but we came back from that and we really wanted to beat SAIT, so we pushed forward. We came through and got the bronze,” said Gray.
A lot has happened since then. Namely, having their 2020 season cancelled due to the pandemic.
That delay aside, the Kodiaks are back and looking to build on what they accomplished almost two years ago.
“We have some new recruits, which we’re really excited for, to see the new potential,” said Gray. “We’re going to stay on that high (from 2019) as much as we can and take the recruits under our wing and really show them what this league is and show them how badly we want another medal and to go to Nationals.”
The Kodiaks will chase that goal with many new names on the roster.
“I think we have 13 players coming back, so there will be a lot of new faces this year,” said Carey. “It’s going to be a new wave of players, which is always exciting when you get that new crop in and when you see some the girls (Sunday), hopefully we can get them committed in the next few years.”
Some of those players will be seen sooner than that with the likes of Ambreah Kelly, Krista van Diemen, Mckenne Henderson and Medicine Hat’s Megan Morrison ready to make the jump.
Kelly, who comes to the Kodiaks from the Lethbridge Football Club and is a graduate of Catholic Central High School, didn’t have to go too far to take the next step of her career.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “It’s nice to be playing soccer in a place you’ve grown up playing, representing the city is an honour. It’s nice to be playing again after COVID, getting back into it and meeting everybody.”
Now, the hometown girl joins the Kodiaks just in time to help them build on last year’s medal.
“The coaches are definitely very keen on getting our team ready for nationals and it’s good to be a part of that,” said Kelly.
The new players have impressed, but Carey said he’ll look to his returnees to lead the charge in their quest for gold.
“Absolutely we lean on them,” he said. “We’ve had some players come to us who want the leadership roles. They have to show the ropes to the new players. But we want them to have fun and enjoy the experience. They come here to get their education, but soccer is a bonus. But we lean on those players.
“But also, when I go recruit I look for leaders. I look for players that can step in as a first-year player. They have to take step up. They’re going to have to play a role this year, but I know they’ll be good for that.”
After a year away, Gray welcomed the return as the team scrimmaged Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve definitely missed it and being a team,” she said. “The Kodiaks are like a second family and it’s definitely hard to be away from the team. But we’re back and we’ve been training and it’s so nice to be on field with the team again and be able to practise. Everybody is excited and we have lots of energy and are ready for the year.”
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