It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Golden Bears soccer squad was undefeated and ranked first in CIS men’s soccer nationally.
Despite falling out of that spot, the Bears remain one of the top teams in Canada with a fourth-place national ranking — but they’ll face a tough weekend playing against fellow top 10 teams UBC and Trinity Western.
The second-ranked UBC Thunderbirds will pose a particularly tough challenge. The T-Birds climbed the rankings throughout the season since they started in the first week tied for 10th, thanks to a perfect record of 8-0-0.
The U of A just finished a weekend series against their top competition in the Prairie Division of the Canada West conference, the University of Saskatchewan, but their upcoming opponents in UBC and the also undefeated fifth-ranked Trinity Western University Spartans pose even greater competition that will test the Bears’ ability to compete for a conference championship this season.
“They’re going to be well-organized like Saskatchewan was,” Golden Bears soccer head coach Len Vickery said about UBC and TWU. “They’re going to have some players that have been around Canada West a few more years — Saskatchewan is a relatively younger group. The challenge for us, regardless, is to improve in small areas and come out strong next week.”
A win and a draw against the U of S Huskies last weekend gave the U of A, a 6-1-2 record that gave them sole possession of top spot in the conference rather than a tie with the now 5-2-2 Huskies.
Maintaining that lead for the remainder of the season will be important for the Bears to put themselves in the best possible position for playoffs.
In the games against Saskatchewan and in the season as a whole, Vickery is pleased with his team’s performance. However, to compete with the other top teams in the country and to be successful in the upcoming playoffs, he’s aware that the Bears will need to improve.
“We’ve had solid performances without being spectacular,” Vickery said. “We’ve had workmanlike performances without being creative and powerful in terms of finishing. We’ve had good where we need excellence.”
UBC and TWU are first and second, respectively, in the CanWest’s Pacific Division, posing a tough challenge for the Bears. But Vickery is familiar with the spot that UBC is in as they climb the CIS rankings and edge closer to first place.
“If UBC are top in the country, now the tables have turned,” Vickery said. “People targeted us when we were in a privileged position, now we have to go and reclaim it.”
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