The University of Victoria Vikes are in a bit of a rebuild era in women’s soccer.
“We are still trying to establish who we are,” said head coach Tracy David. “And we are about to find out real quick.”
Opening the Canada West regular season today against the defending CIS national champion UBC Thunderbirds, at 2 p.m. at Centennial Stadium, is about to bring to the Vikes some very rapid self-identity.
The Thunderbirds are top-ranked in the CIS to start the 2016 season.
“It’s a big test right off the bat. But we have to play [the Thunderbirds] sometime, so why not right away?” said David, of the ordeal by fire off the top.
Not that UVic hasn’t been among the Canada West elite itself, having made the playoffs the past five consecutive seasons and 13 of the 15 years David has coached the Vikes.
UVic did not make the national CIS top-10 poll but was rated No. 4 in the Canada West pre-season coaches poll behind UBC, Trinity Western and Calgary in the 16-team conference.
The Vikes’ strength is on the back line, where most of the veterans play.
David cited 2015 Canada West second-team all-stars and fifth-year returnees Lindsay Machin, the centre back, and Meaghan Storie, the goalkeeper. She also pointed to fifth-year defender and Claremont-grad Samantha Lee.
That back side of our team is really important for us,” said David.
“We are going to heavily rely on those players.”
Offence will be more problematic.
“We have a few issues generating opportunities,” said David.
“We are going to have to capitalize on our chances.”
Most capable of doing that are sophomore striker and Stelly’s Secondary graduate Kiara Kilbey and former Pac-12 University of Oregon Ducks fifth-year attacking-midfielder Mia Gunter.
Nothing will come without dedication, effort and focus for this team, added the bench boss.
“We have to be committed to really working hard every game. We can’t take any team lightly,” said David.
Whatever the Vikes get this year, they will have to earn it with some old-fashioned sweat and elbow grease.