The proverbial bar was set rather high last year by their male counterparts, but the University of Victoria Vikes women's soccer team has its own opportunity to attempt to nudge themselves up to that successful mark beginning Thursday.
Having watched the Vikes men's team pull off a national title as hosts of the 2011 CIS soccer championship, coach Tracy David's women's crew is now on centre stage at the 2012 event.
The Vikes, runners-up in Canada West, will face Quebec champion Sherbrooke Vert et Or at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Centennial Stadium.
It's a first step in a required three-win week to ultimately hoist the trophy and CIS banner.
"They did set the bar high, for sure, hosting and winning the championship at home, and they played well. They were a great team," David said of her husband Bruce Wilson's successful men's team.
"I think we have the players to do it," added David. "I think we just have to stay focused on the task at hand and take this one game at a time."
Of course, the Vikes will have a tremendous advantage in that they are playing on their home field, a natural grass surface that they know every square inch of.
They will also have fans behind them, much like the men encountered, and the experience of playing in what might become nasty weather.
Those are all intangibles teams have to deal with in claiming national titles.
"Three wins, that's all we need," said fifth-year goalkeeper Stephanie Parker, one of four remaining Vikes who competed in the 2008 CIS championship at Trinity Western in Langley. "I think we're all on board and we all have the same goal.
"Hopefully, we'll get to see Trinity again," Parker added in reference to losing the Canada West final 2-1 to the Spartans on Saturday. "I think we want a second chance at them, but they have to get past Laurier and we have to get past Sherbrooke.
"We met our goals of finishing top eight and making the playoffs, and qualifying for the Canada West final.
Our last goal is to win a national championship and we're going to do everything in our power to do it."
While Parker is one of four with experience at nationals, the younger Vikes are all eager for their first CIS fnals.
"I'm really excited," said Jaclyn Sawicki, a third-year midfielder. "This is my first CIS championship and I'm super confident in this team and we're super confident in each other and I think other teams better look out.
"There are definitely high expectations from the Vikes family, but I think we can back it up and I think we can do it. If we just play this game by game.
"Having lost in the [Canada West] final this past weekend, we know what it's like to lose now and it was a good experience for all of us and, hopefully, the next time it comes around, we'll come out on top."
They will face adversity as well as the Vikes could be minus several players as they recover from that battle with Trinity Western, who will face the Laurier Golden Hawks at 4: 30 p.m. Thursday in another quarter-final. The Ottawa Gee-Gees take on the Cape Breton Capers at 11 a.m., followed by the Dalhousie Tigers and two-time defending champion Queen's Gaels at 1: 30 p.m.
Winners will advance to semifinals on Friday at 4: 30 and 7 p.m. The bronze-medal game is set for Sunday at 11: 30 a.m. and the championship final follows at 2 p.m.
Game day passes are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and students and $5 for youth (ages 7-14). Tournament passes are $25 for adults, $15 for seniors and students and $10 for youth. A family tournament pass (two adults and two youth) is $60.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
- Ottawa vs. Cape Breton, 11 a.m.
- Dalhousie vs. Queen's, 1: 30 p.m.
- Trinity Western vs. Wilfrid
Laurier, 4: 30 p.m.
- Sherbrooke vs. Victoria, 7 p.m.
- Semifinal 1, 4: 30 p.m.
- Semifinal 2, 7 p.m.
- Fifth-place game, 2: 30 p.m.
- Bronze-medal game, 11: 30 a.m.
- Gold-medal game, 2 p.m.
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