After two years of success at both AUS and national level, CBU women's soccer enter the 2019 season looking to secure their dynasty status with a third conference banner in as many years.
Under the tutelage of Head Coach Ness Timmons, the 2018 Capers secured a U-Sports national bronze medal on top of a second consecutive AUS title. The 2018 season also yielded a number of individual accolades including a second AUS MVP award for Ciera Disipio and a U-Sports Rookie of the Year title for Erin Freeman.
For most coaches, the years of success experienced by Timmons would be cause for a decline in motivation, but the 23-year pro remains guided by his continual love for the game and desire to produce successful teams.
"It's always fun, each season is a new team and a new start. I want our team to be great regardless of our standing. If we learn to play and compete with the qualities of a great team then the results will take care of themselves."
When an athletics programme is built on a winning legacy, it is only natural that those standards are maintained and built upon season after season. To avoid possible complacency Coach Timmons believes that the team must commit to working hard in practice and games regardless of the final outcome.
"This team never takes anything for granted. They still want to be the hardest working team in the league regardless of the finish."
The seemingly endless well of enthusiasm that springs from Timmons has undoubtedly rubbed off on his players over the years and this current Capers squad is no exception. Feeding off Timmons' aura of positivity, reigning AUS MVP Ciera Disipio believes that this team can build on the experiences of last season and return even stronger in 2019.
"At the end of the day we want to win the AUS and I think we are optimistic in terms of gunning for that banner. Nationals is a different game, it's one of those things you think about when you get there. If we get to nationals and get through that first game, we'll definitely be going for the gold medal. We have taken on the same mindset as last year and we are going for it all."
It was a summer to remember for Disipio who was selected to represent Canada at the 30th annual FISU games in Naples, Italy. The commanding central midfielder believes that her experiences with the national team will ultimately yield positive results for herself and her teammates in 2019.
"While I was away in Italy I got the chance to be right in the swing of things on the field but I also got to watch from the sidelines. That experience taught me the importance of staying connected whether you are on or off the field. At that level and speed of play, there really isn't the time to lose focus. You could end up losing a game you should have won just because you lost focus for that split second."
With a once in a lifetime team excursion to England on the horizon, Coach Timmons is confident that these pre-season experiences can cultivate a sense of cohesiveness and morale amongst his players. The team leaves Friday, August 23rd for England to train with Manchester City and Leicester City.
"Ciera will be able to share some of what she has learned on her travels and this trip to England is about goodwill and team bonding. All travel is a learning experience."
One player who will be looking to benefit from the guidance and experience of CBU veterans this season is 2018 U-Sports Rookie of the Year, Erin Freeman. Freeman enjoyed a breakout season as part of CBU's 2018 title-winning squad, finishing the campaign with three goals and six assists. Despite the national recognition, CBU's talented forward remains fully focused on the season ahead and eager to continue her good run of form.
"It was definitely a very special first year for me as a Caper. Not everyone gets the privilege of playing in the AUS final and national championships in their rookie year. Winning an AUS title in front of our home crowd, going on to win rookie of the year and getting a national medal was incredible. I will remember it for a long time."
To build the kind of winning culture that CBU is now renowned for requires a consistent philosophy centred around self-reflection, honesty and dedication. Fully committing herself to that ethos, Freeman continues to reflect on her personal performance and how she can better facilitate the team this season.
"There is always room for improvement and I'm constantly trying to bring new strengths to the table that can help the team. Even though I am only going into my second year I hope I can provide some leadership and guidance on and off the field. We're hoping to build on last year's success so we can be strong contenders for the AUS title."
Despite the success of her first season at CBU, Freeman remains happy to look towards the more experienced players for guidance, advice and support.
"It's definitely very important to have the senior players there for leadership and to help connect the team. The fourth and fifth-year players last season were paramount to the team's success and we're fortunate enough to have two key players, Rachel Yerxa and Ciera Disipio, back for their fifth season."
Despite placing similar expectations on his veteran players, Timmons believes that leadership is a shared responsibility and is hoping to see the same initiative from all areas of the field in 2019.
"We have three team captains who have accepted the challenge but we want all our players to lead and I encourage that from all ranks. We have great leaders returning so hopefully that culture can continue."
If the Capers are to have another successful AUS run this season they will surely be looking towards Freeman and Disipio once again to provide their offensive spark. Coach Timmons is convinced that his two AUS award winners from last season are primed and ready to be even better in 2019.
"Ciera has been the MVP of the league for the last two seasons but I think this will be her best year yet. Erin could have a better year this season also, both are big-time leaders on our team."
The CBU women's soccer team kick off their 2019 season at home against the UNB Reds at 1.00pm on September 7th. For more information about the Orange Out Home Opener visit www.cbu.ca/wow. If you want to be a part of the action this season just head to www.gocapersgo.ca for roster news, ticket information and upcoming fixtures. You can also follow @gocapersgo on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the team on their pre-season tour of England.
Josh Lines - For CBU Athletics