Two teams headed into this soccer season looking for redemption after they had unfavourable ends to last season.
The SAIT Trojans men’s and women’s soccer teams now both find themselves gearing up for playoffs.
For the women’s side, it is a major accomplishment for a team that didn’t win a game last season.
“It was a fantastic season,” said women’s head coach John Talerico in an interview prior to the start of the playoffs.
“We went game-by-game, that’s how we set our goals. It shows the character of our team.”
Former coaches Cassey Bush and Amoy Hudson both took on leadership roles, returning to the pitch as players this season.
Talerico had nothing but high praise for the two strikers, as he felt they stepped in and contributed both on and off the field en route to a playoff berth.
“They were able to help the rookies whenever they got nervous,” Talerico said.
“Their experience is huge, especially in this league.”
The team still had two games left in the regular season Oct. 22-23, both road games against the Red Deer College Queens and Lakeland College Rustlers.
Talerico understood the key for the team was to not look ahead of those games, and to use them to get ready for the higher intensity of playoffs.
“We have the advantage going into this weekend, but we have to stay prepared,” Talerico said.
“We have to play consistent, but we’ll be fine if we do that.”
The men’s team, meanwhile, came into this season looking to see if the third time really was the charm, having lost in the bronze medal game two years straight.
A handful of rookies joined the team this year and were able to contribute and develop their skills, according to head coach Grant Stevens.
“We’ve had good progression, especially with all the rookies coming in,” said Stevens.
“They’re just where I want them to be.”
Stevens recognizes that the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) is a competitive style of play, and no matter where they place after their final two games, they can’t take any team lightly in playoffs.
With that in mind, Stevens has only one thing on his mind for playoffs: Gold.
“It’s purely gold and that’s it,” said Stevens.
“It’s a matter of having respect for the opponents, regardless if they are from the south or north,” Stevens said.
“We have to go in there strong, with the objective of winning gold.”
It’s purely gold and that’s it.- Grant Stevens
Stevens recognizes that during playoffs, nerves will be running high, but if the players can keep them at a minimum, they will succeed.
“I still get butterflies til this day,” Stevens said.
“If they can control that and play to my instructions, we will win.”