Now hiring: goaltender with skills

The wonder women of last fall are back for another season, this time without their invisible airplane. The absence of veteran goalkeeper Rayna Bergerman and departure of Chrisy Nelson to the University of Idaho leaves the net in the hands of two yet-to-be-named rookies, making for an unpredictable season.

"We don’t have a goalkeeper as of right now," said former Dinosaurs soccer player and women’s Head Coach for the past four seasons Robin Slot. "I’ve been out actively trying to find where goalkeeepers are going. There are some but they’re not willing to play. It’s been our strength for the last few years, so I’m definitely worried."

The University of Calgary Dinos women’s soccer team finished last season with an impeccable 8­1­1 record, but suffered a heartbreaking 1­0 loss in the Canada West final to provincial rivals the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

But wait, there is more to the problem than just goalkeeping. Players come and go every season and this season is no exception. Besides the netminders, the team lost Canada West and Canada Inter-Athletic Union all-star defenders Erin Vantornhout and Sara Leger to eligibility; former CIAU rookie-of-the-year midfielder Shannon Blaker joined Nelson at Idaho State and fifth-year grad students Alisa McArthur and Catherine Angus left.

"We’ve lost five or six key players," said Slot. "These four older ones, in particular, definitely played leadership roles and were solid, talented players and it will be tough to fill their holes. I’ve lost a bunch of potential first-years to the States-Nebraska’s the big one.

"They got some scholarships," he continued, "two of them would have definitely been in."

Slot seems to have an explanation for this emerging trend which isn’t limited to soccer.

"There is some very aggressive recruiting in Alberta," explained Slot. "Alberta’s starting to produce some very good players, and particularly in Calgary so there are more coaches coming up from the States looking at these players and recruiting them."

Slot attributes the strength of the Calgary soccer program to the rapidly growing number of participants and the superior quality of coaching.

"Probably better coaching for the most part," said Slot. " Plus there’re some very talented athletes coming through. We’re certainly better oV than Edmonton in terms of single players up-and-coming."

So now what? Are we destined for a hellish season after teetering on the doorstep of national fame and acclaim? Nay.

Come Sept. 19, the season opener against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, a mixed band of new and sophomore talent will adorn the red and white. Key returnees looking to fill the holes include fifth-year veteran national team member and CIAU all-star Stephanie O’Neill, last year’s rookie-of-the-year midfielder Leanne Pelosi, Hema Changkalath and defender Sarah Dunlop, both of whom played on the Under-19 Alberta Selects national champions.

"As for these younger ones coming in, I’m going to be forced to use them and I think they are quite competent and capable of playing," mentioned Slot. "I’m not afraid to use the first-years, I’ve used them the last few years and we’ve had rookie-of-the-year the last two years."

Although it will be hard for the Dinos to repeat their last few season’s performances, the change in the playoV format should work in their favour.

"This year, four teams out of the six make the playoVs," mentioned Slot hopefully. "Whereas last year it was just one vs. two. The first-placed team this season will host the playoVs and it’s one vs. four and two vs. three . If we have a raw goalie, as long as we can qualify for the playoVs and work with her for a few months, anything can happen come the playoVs."

Open tryouts are Sept. 8 and 9 at 6 p.m. out on the soccer fields by the Olympic Oval. The first home game is Sept. 26 against the Golden Bears at noon.

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