Timberwolves play first CIS game Friday
History will be made on the soccer pitch in Victoria tonight.
When the Timberwolves play the Vikes in men’s soccer in the provincial capital, they’ll become the first UNBC squad to compete in a Canadian Interuniversity Sport game.
The women get the thrill of becoming the first Timberwolves squad to play a home contest. They welcome the Vikes’ female squad to Prince George on Sept. 15. But the men get the first big test.
This isn’t an ordinary game, for reasons beyond the CIS factor. The Vikes are the defending CIS national champions and right away, the Timberwolves can measure themselves against Canada’s best.
First-year UNBC head coach Alan Alderson wasn’t surprised to see Victoria at the top of the CIS pre-season rankings, released earlier this week. He noted that Vikes head coach Bruce Wilson has told him they’re even stronger this year.
Alderson said he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“Extremely exciting from the perspective of we get to go up against the defending national champions, on the road, and get to play them twice,” Alderson said. “Our extremely inexperienced and young teams get to find out exactly what we’re up against this season.”
Alderson listed his roster at 26 players on Wednesday. They’re allowed to dress a maximum of 18 players for CIS games.
Team lists released last Friday by the UNBC athletics department had 22 players listed on the men’s active roster. Striker Danny Dell is the only fifth-year player on the list, with two fourth-years, midfielders Kellen Strobl and Sourosh Amani. Third-year players are: midfielders Alessandro Deviato, Jared Dillabaugh, Desmond Udeh and Andrew Seabrook; striker Christopher Russell and defender Ahmed Hamour. Goalkeeper Lorenzo Bonetti and defenders Harjas Grewal and Logan Phenuff are entering their second year of eligibility. That leaves 10 rookies on the squad.
Are they CIS-ready?
“The only way to find that out is to play the games because even an exhibition game, it’s an exhibition game,” Alderson said. “Until you get into that legitimate, we are now in a CIS game, that’s when you find out how your players are going to respond, both to the level of intensity, to the speed, to the talent. We’ll figure out really quickly how tough it is to play on the road, so as I’ve said before, we’re very young, we’re very inexperienced and this is brand new to us and the schedules have given us an incredibly tough schedule for a first-year team.”
With the graduation of 2011 starter Kyle Flannagan, the Timberwolves are taking a different approach to goalkeeping this year. Four players on the roster are listed as goalies. Flannagan, who completed his fifth and final season last fall, is back as a goalkeeper coach.
Alderson said they’re also trying to develop skill at the defence and striker positions. The graduation of defender Scott DeBianchi, named Team MVP for each of his five seasons at UNBC, leaves a hole in the lineup.
The second weekend will also provide a challenge to the Timberwolves. They hit the road again, this time to play the Alberta Golden Bears in Edmonton on Sept. 15 and Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon on Sept. 16. They play Trinity Western in a home-opening doubleheader the following weekend.
“The good thing is we’ve got some very talented players on our team and we always want to give our best shot,” Alderson said. “My hope is that we build a team that game in and game out show up to play their very best, and when you do that you always have a chance to win.”