Morgan Strachan (left) works out with the Assiniboine Community College Cougars women’s soccer team during a practice Thursday evening at Optimist Park. The Cougars play their inaugural matches this weekend. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Assiniboine Community College’s long wait to debut on the soccer scene will come to an end on Saturday.
The Cougars men’s and women’s soccer teams will host the Red River College Rebels at Optimist Park in their inaugural Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference matches. The women’s team will kick things off at noon, followed by the men at 2 p.m. It will be a new experience for the players and coaches, and they can’t wait to get things going.
"Very excited," women’s coach Mark Dabbs said. "We’ve been working on it for about six months and I’m just pumped to get the girls out there on the field."
While both soccer teams are in a similar situation, their makeup is very different. The women’s roster features 15 players, with 12 of them coming from the Westman region.
Recruiting proved to be tougher for Dabbs than he expected. Dabbs initially thought new students would be interested in playing the world’s most popular sport at ACC after the school announced the team was being created in October. However, he quickly learned that few students coming to the school realized the team existed, so he had the application lists emailed to him every two weeks so he could contact new students and make sure they were aware of the squad.
Dabbs ended up with a lot of local players, and he’s thrilled about it.
"It’s gratifying to see so many of the girls that I’ve watched play soccer for the last 10 years in the Westman area have a place to play," he said. "Most of the team is from Westman and I think, as people come out and see there’s a place to play, that will help the game and all the youth associations around the region."
His only concern is the size of his roster. Teams are allowed five substitutions per game and with only 15 players, he knows some players could get tired or the bench could become really short if the injury bug bites them. That’s why he’s keeping an ear open and will accept anyone interested in joining the team.
Meanwhile, the men’s soccer team has a very international feel to it. Of the 22 players on the roster, 13 of them grew up in countries other than Canada. The team is made up of players from eight different countries — Canada, Bolivia, Colombia, Spain, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mexico and Nigeria — and head coach Bo Kampmann adds Germany to the list.
Kampmann likes the different styles of play his players bring to the team, but he admitted it has been tricky getting everyone on the same page.
"Because of the nine different countries we have, they all bring some skills to the table, which is based on an individual style," he said. "The coaching staff had a very rough time to combine the starting 11 to a functional unit. I think it will work out very well. It will work out to the extent that we will be successful, I hope. If not, then we keep trying."
Both soccer teams have set goals of reaching the playoffs this season.
The Cougars have never played at this level before and don’t know what to expect from their opponents, so Kampmann is using the first few games as a learning experience.
"We’ll have to make decisions based on the first two games," he said. "… To apply them in the right tactical and strategical order is very difficult because we don’t know any of our opponents yet. In the first round, which will be played here in Brandon, we will test our opponents and then attack accordingly."
The Cougars will also host the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers on Sunday. The women kick things off at 2 p.m. followed by the men at 4 p.m., at Optimist Park.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 13, 2013