VANCOUVER, CANADA – Canada West women’s soccer returned this past weekend for the first time in over 600 days, as the new-look Central Division featuring the Alberta-based schools kicked off with a pair of matches.
The 2021 edition of Canada West women’s soccer looks slightly different than the status quo, with only 86% of the regular length schedule, and the teams split into three new divisions.
While the Alberta division has kicked off, the Prarie Division gets underway on Friday, Sept. 10, featuring USask, Regina, Manitoba, and Winnipeg, all vying for two playoff berths.
This summer, the Manitoba Bisons found themselves in the spotlight as former varsity soccer play Desiree Scott won an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada at Tokyo 2020. However, Scott’s U SPORTS days are well in the past, and all eyes are fixated on 2021 for the Winnipegers.
The Bisons finished 2019 on a five-game win streak, and although that is nearly two years ago, they will want to keep the momentum going in 2021. Forward Nicole Davis and midfielder Jessica Tsai return to the Bisons this season and will offer not only veteran presence but experience offensive capabilities, both having scored 6+ goals and 10+ points in 2019.
While those two run the attack, midfielder Gabrielle Clarke is a midfield orchestrator who will pull strings in transition as a third-year player in 2021. A former USA All-Conference freshman in the NCAA, Clarke can take over a game and will be a player to watch in 2021.
With a good mix of rookies and high-producing veterans, 2021 is poised to be a good year for the Bisons.
Player to watch: Gabrielle Clarke
Take what you will from preseason, but 2019’s three-win Regina Cougars look ready to make some noise in Canada West in 2021. Maybe it is the year off, or perhaps it is the Co-Head Coaches, but something just seems different about this year’s edition of the Cougars.
“The environment has been exactly what we had hoped for…there is a lot of competition to make that starting 11,” said Co-Head Coaches Astrid Baecker & Rob McCaffrey to Canada West. “We have 19 first-year players, so for our senior group to come in and allow those young athletes to hit the ground running, it really allowed everyone to show their skill sets.”
With such a young group, the Cougars may not be championship contenders this season but are being built to compete at a top-level for years to come. The Cougars took on the Lethbridge Pronghorns in a pair of preseason games, dropping one fixture 4-0 while winning the other 3-1, before trouncing Lethbridge College 9-0.
Rookie Peyton Enns is a player to keep an eye on for years to come. The former Bonivital SC striker scored four times in the three pre-season matches. Still, her performance was not shocking to the coaching staff; it’s what they brought her to U of R for.
“Peyton came into our program with the expectation to be a goal scorer, and throughout preseason she has shown us that she’s a creative and confident forward-thinking player that is able to generate and finish opportunities,” Cougars interim co-head coach Astrid Baecker said in a release.
The Cougars are fresh, new, and raring to go for years to come. They are not a team to be missed.
Player to watch: Peyton Enns
The Saskatchewan Huskies finished just one spot behind the division-winning MacEwan Griffins in 2019, but in 2021, the focus turns to a potential playoff run. Despite having success in recent years, the Huskies have never won a conference or national championship but have promise this season.
Returning fifth-year, Taneil Gay is a player to watch after scoring three times for eight points in 2019. However, first-years Naleya Kobussen and Alyssa D’agnone are likely to be significant contributors in a transitional season.
Maya Gabruch finished second in Canada West, scoring in 2019 with nine goals and returning to the Huskies lineup in 2021, where she will be able to play off of Gay in a partnership that is not only experienced has found success at this level.
Despite the season being only 86% of the status-quo length, the Huskies will have a golden opportunity to post more wins than their eight in 2020. The Prarie Division is likely the weakest of Canada West’s three, and the Huskies are one of the better teams.
Player to watch: Taniel Gay
Success can be measured in many different ways. For the Winnipeg Wesmen, the first goal is to win two games in a season, a feat they have not reached since 2019.
They battled a solid Manitoba Bisons team to a 0-0 draw in the preseason, a positive result seeing as they only claimed points twice in 2019. Although the midfield will undoubtedly run through NCAA transfer Karrisa Schneider, the midfield will undoubtedly return to Winnipeg’s hometown after playing two seasons with Drury University.
Speaking to Canada West, Head Coach Amy Anderson was realistic in her expectations for 2021, “We’re always thinking big picture. We’re going to learn a lot and take some time to fine-tune things,” she said. “My thing is getting them mentally ready to play.”
The Wesmen are likely not going to finish atop the division; however, the talent that they brought in is promising when looking ahead at the next few years.
- Manitoba Bisons
- Regina Cougars
- Winnipeg Wesmen
Cover photo: University of Saskatchewan Athletics Dept.