TORONTO, ON – There are 56 member schools in U SPORTS, and 53 of them have a women’s soccer program. There are four conferences in U SPORTS, and each of them has a conference winner.
At the end of the day, there is only one U SPORTS National Champion, and Canada West’s BC Division includes the last team to hoist the trophy; the UBC Thunderbirds.
While Canada West action got underway on Sept. 4, the West division, featuring the seven BC schools, gets underway on Friday, Sept. 10. With everyone wanting a piece of the national champions, the division is bound to be feisty.
The top three teams from the West Division qualify for the playoffs, with the fourth-place team potentially grabbing a wild-card slot.
Thompson Rivers Wolfpack
After missing out on the Canada West post-season by just one win in 2019, the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack will be hoping for a better end to the season in 2021. To get started this season, they host the defending U SPORTS champion UBC Thunderbirds at Hillside Stadium on Sept. 10, as they get thrown right into the fire to start their campaign.
With current provincial health orders in the Kamloops, BC area, the Wolfpack will be one of the few U SPORTS teams without fans in attendance to start the year.
The Wolfpack have lost several pieces to graduation over the last two seasons, but a veteran player is still likely to lead the way. Courtney, BC’s Camryn Curt scored three goals in 2019 and wil likely lead the Wolfpack line once again.
A key addition to the squad is transfer student Hollis Roeske, who spent the beginning of her college career with Burnaby’s Simon Fraser in the NCAA.
Player to watch: Camryn Curt
Trinity Western Spartans
If there is a team to challenge for the Canada West title in 2021, there is a good chance that it will be the TWU Spartans. Led by Head Coach Graham Roxburgh, the Spartans will look to match their division-winning season of last year but strive towards an undefeated record rather than their one 2019 loss.
The Spartans have an exceptionally young team in 2021, with 15 first years pulling on their navy blue kits; however, the returning core led by Kathryn Harvey and Elizabeth Hicks will be critical to their success.
“We’ve got a good core leadership group led by our captain Liz Hicks. She’s returning for her final season. I’ve been really impressed with her maturity,” said Graham Roxburgh to Canada West. “We have a core of third and fourth-years who have also really stepped up.”
The Spartans had some troubles through the pre-season, with a 2-1-2record against Canada West competition. However, despite their struggles, they will undoubtedly, be a team to watch for in 2021.
Player to watch: Elizabeth Hicks
Fraser Valley Cascades
The UFV Cascades find themselves in a similar yet, peculiar position as an outstanding team but poised to finish behind the powerhouse UBC Thunderbirds and TWU Spartans. Although West Division does not offer them a clear-cut shot at first place, they will not have to deal with the pesky Calgary Dinos, as they have in the past.
Led by rookie Head Coach Niko Marcina, the Cascades will be in a transitional year, with winning still at the forefront of their minds. They lost several senior players over the last two years, leaving Brittany Costa as the vital cog in the midfield. While she plays deeper in the park, the Cascades wil need her qualities to push forward and invigorate an attack that was already middle of the pack in Canada West.
The 2021 season will be far from a walk in the park for the Cascades; however, as the Abbotsford-based program has always played a hard-working style of soccer that could push them to another post-season appearance.
Player to watch: Brittany Costa
Northern BC Timberwolves
In a division against some of the top schools, 2021 is bound to be a trying year for the UNBC Timberwolves. Like Fraser Valley, the Timberwolves are a good team but fall behind the elite levels of some of the division’s other schools.
While they will be without 2019 leading goalscorer Sofia Jones, Head Coach Neil Sedgwick has brought in several players to fill the void ahead of his sixth season. Former UFV Cascades Sidney Elliot and Monika Johnson head to Prince George for 2021, with the latter bringing a never before seen U SPORTS All-Canadian resume to the school.
The injection of experience and quality will surely help the Timberwolves but is unlikely to be enough to make a legitimate run at the conference championship.
Player to watch: Monika Johnson
UBC Okanagan Heat
Often in the shadow of their Vancouver counterparts, the UBC Okanagan Heat might be a little cooler than they expect in 2021. After winning just one match of 14 and finishing at the bottom of most statistical categories, there might not be much on the surface that points towards a top-season.
While the Heat has struggled, rookie goalkeeper Molly Race will play an essential role in keeping her side in matches. While she is a second-year student-athlete, the Vernon, BC native, has yet to play a game for the Heat.
It may not be smooth sailing for the UBCO Heat this season, but with a young roster and the guidance of Head Coach Craig Smith, there is promise in their development.
Player to watch: Molly Mullin
The UVic Vikes will be the best team on Vancouver Island this year. Yes, they will also be the worst team on the Island. Ok, you got me; they are the only team on the Island. However, they will be a good team.
The Vikes have not won a Canada West title since 2008, and will be hoping their streak ends in 2021. While the preseason has not been smooth sailing, including a 7-0 loss to UBC, the Tracy David-led Vikes are well-prepared for the rigours of the West Divison.
Player to watch: Kyra Teetzen
Expectations could not be higher for the UBC Thunderbirds. Coming off of a U SPORTS title and a perfect preseason, including dominant performances against the University of Victoria, Thompson Rivers and UBCO, the Jesse Symons-led group has another national championship on their minds.
While the T-Birds have not won the Canada West title since 2016, there is every chance that they could do it in 2021, especially after fellow Canad West coaches pegged the side to be the conference’s best in the annual Coache’s Poll.
UBC won’t have Alyssa hunt or Emma Peckinpaugh in 2021, but Symons and co have replaced the losses with exceptional talents from BC and across Canada. Sydney Slater, a Calgary-born forward, has looked like a starting striker through the preseason and scored a long-distance free-kick against the Vikes. At the same time, second-year student but U SPORTS rookie Josie Claypool is set to be a force in the defensive midfield.
“There have been some really impressive performances,” said Symons to 49 Sports. “We had some rookies in 2019 that didn’t play in the U SPORTS final who are now third years and are ready to showcase themselves too.”
Although the new faces add a high level to the T-Birds, veteran striker Danielle Steer and goalkeeper Emily Moore bring a calming presence to the side. Moore has not played a UBC match since the final but spent the 2021 preseason with the FA Women’s Super League’s West Ham United, gaining valuable pro experience that she is bringing back to UBC.
Player to watch: Josie Claypool
- UBC THUNDERBIRDS
- TWU SPARTANS
- UFV CASCADES
- UVIC VIKES
- UBCO HEAT
- UNBC TIMBERWOLVES