June 18th, 2024

New-look Pronghorns ready to roll

By Dale Woodard on September 10, 2021.

After a year-and-a-half away, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s soccer team is back.

And they’re going on the offensive.

Last year, the Horns could only watch as the 2020 Canada West season was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That all changes this weekend as the Pronghorns take the pitch for the first time in nearly two years when they open the regular season Saturday in Calgary against the Mount Royal College Cougars.

Lethbridge wraps up the weekend Sunday in Edmonton against the University of Alberta Pandas.

With new head coach Macky Singh at the helm, it’s a new look Pronghorns who will clash with the Cougars Saturday.

“Definitely the team dynamic in the attacking area,” said fourth-year centre back Peyton Hiebert. “We’ve always had a really strong back line, but now having a forward line that is really aggressive and is always working really hard in a type of system has really been beneficial and we’ve been able to push goals we haven’t normally been able to. It’s been great to see the girls reap the benefits of what they deserve when it comes to that. So everybody has been working hard and seeing that translate on the field.”

The chance to simply be back combined with the new look also agrees with fellow fourth-year veteran Kaleigh Harris.

“We’re all excited because we haven’t played a game in over a year-and-a-half,” said the striker from Port Hardy B.C.

“But we’re all stoked and with our new coach it has given us a lot to think about. We switched our system a lot and we’re really excited to see how that works against some good competition this weekend.”

This much is certain, the new system works for Harris.

“The system he plays is similar to the one I’m used to playing,” she said.

“It has been very effective and beneficial for me in the past as an attacking player. So I’m really excited to use what he has taught us this weekend.”

Singh was announced as the Pronghorns new head coach at the end of March and is the seventh coach in the program’s history.

Originally hailing from Malaysia, Singh most recently coached in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s programs at Keyano College in Fort McMurray.

Like his players, the first-year Horns bench boss was eager to get it going this weekend.

“I haven’t coached in almost a year,” said Singh.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the regular season starting this weekend.”

Singh also noted the excitement level from his players prior to Thursday’s practice.

“Other than the preseason games they really haven’t played for almost 18 months. But this weekend is our first regular season in a long time.”

The Horns went 2-2 in the preseason, defeating the Lethbridge College Kodiaks 2-0 and splitting with the University of Regina Cougars.

Their first game of the preseason was a close 4-3 loss to the Trinity Western Spartans Aug. 21 in St. Albert.

Singh credited his team for making the adjustment to the game he’s bringing to the table.

“With that transition it takes time for them to understand the technical side of it. But they’ve embraced it,” he said.

“We lost to Trinity Western 4-3 and got three goals against one of the top teams in the country. It’ll take time for the other parts to come in, but this is what it’s all about.”

Both Hiebert and Harris are in their fourth years, but in their third of playing eligibility after not losing a year to COVID last season.

“It’s been very challenging with our home workouts and our body weight stuff,” said Harris. “It’s definitely been a change in the pace of what we’re used to. But the girls have definitely worked hard over the summer to get our bodies in shape. A lot of us aren’t used to practising every single day, but our bodies have to be used to it now. So I think it’ll be interesting to see how we do this season. I think we’re geared up and put in the right hands to make it happen.”

That starts Saturday in Calgary and heads north to Edmonton Sunday.

“It’s so exciting to be back on the field,” said Hiebert, who hails from Cochrane. “I feel like we’ve been missing a part of that aspect in the last few years, which has been difficult. But with everything going on it’s definitely a way for us to relieve some stress. So it’s good to be back with the girls and back on the field and in an environment like this again.”

As for her new coach, Hiebert said Singh expects an effort from everyone.

“Everybody showing up for each other,” she said. “The team culture is really important as well and the stamp he has brought, our results have shown with that. It’s definitely a developing aspect of it as well, but seeing everybody out there having fun is another big aspect he emphasizes, which is important.”

Hiebert said the Horns bring in some new recruits this year, but also have some athletes who did not play because of COVID who were also on the team as well.

“So we have a big group of girls who this is their first year of Canada West, which is really exciting,” she said. “We have a high bench number this year, which is beneficial for scrimmaging and practices. Having that and everybody getting experience with the Canada West competition is exciting.”

Heading into her fourth year and third of eligibility, Hiebert comes in as a veteran and passes on the importance of a little elbow grease to the first years in regards to what it takes to succeed at the university level.

“Just work as hard as you can,” she said. “There is going to be obstacles you have to face, injuries and illnesses, but it’s always showing up for yourself and your teammates and just putting in 110 per cent every time in everything you do, school and soccer and working with your friends. Definitely try your best and give it your all.”

The Pronghorns host their home opener Sept. 18 at the University of Lethbridge Stadium in what will be triple-header of Canada West action.

The Horns women kick off the day at noon against the MacEwan University Griffins before the Pronghorns men’s team opens their Canada West season at 2:15 p.m.

The Pronghorns women’s rugby team will cap off the day at 7 p.m. when they take on the Alberta Pandas.

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