By Ryan Hyndman
Since the Dalhousie Tigers women’s soccer team played their last match, their eyes have been set on the 2022-23 season. A heartbreaking extra time loss in the first round of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) playoffs to the eventual AUS champion, Acadia Axewomen has served as motivation ahead of their first regular season match against Mount Allison on September 10 at Wickwire Field. Finishing the 2021-22 season with a record of 4-3-5 after a hot start of 4-1-1, the Tigers are hungry to prove that first month was not a mistake.
There are significant holes in the lineup from graduating seniors Adele Arsenault, Sofia Nicholls, Josie Oickle, Holly Buckler, and team MVP from 2021, Riley Donovan. Donovan went on an unprecedented run in the 2021-22 season, posting eight goals in three games, earning a U SPORTS second team All-Canadian honours at the end of the season. Buckler was awarded the AUS student-athlete community service award in 2021, becoming just the third Tiger ever to do so, while earning a spot on the AUS second all-star team. Zoe Brown is the lone graduating player returning to the team, after beginning her master’s degree in the summer.
“Of course, the graduation of senior players has an impact. They’ve set a great example and made us better,” says head coach Cindy Tye. “However, this year’s group has put in a lot of time over the summer, and we look forward to what this version of the Tigers will do this season!”
With five seniors leaving the program, the Tigers will be looking for contributions from returning players, as well as some of their new recruits. Returning goalkeeper Annabel Gravley will look to build on a successful 2021-22 campaign that saw her secure four shutouts in the Tigers first five games. There are nine incoming players to this year’s lineup including Alexia Delahunt, Ella Halliday, Paris Axam, Emily Toth, Mira Blakely, Elise Evans, Jordan Mansfield, Hannah Vidito, and Olivia Jack. Newcomer Jack, joins the Tigers fresh off a bronze medal with Team Nova Scotia at the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara, Ont., and will be looking to contribute as the Tigers chase a 13th AUS title this year, their first since 2012.
“Our first-year players have had a great training camp and have showed well in our exhibition games,” continues Tye. “They were fit and ready to go and it showed. They have definitely added competition to our training environment, and we look forward to their contributions moving forward.”
Tye returns for her seventh season coaching the Tigers. She was busy in the of-season, leading Canada’s U20 Women’s Soccer team to the World Cup in Costa Rica last month. She was joined in July by returning player Megan Chiasson who earned an invite to the Team Canada training camp in Toronto last month after winning AUS rookie of the year in 2021 and earning a spot on the U SPORTS all-rookie team.
It all begins on Saturday, September 10 when the Tigers welcome the Mount Allison Mounties to Wickwire Field for what should be an exciting home opener, after defeating Mount Allison 2-0 in pre-season action. After opening at home, the Tigers will travel to the University of New Brunswick for a back-to-back series against the Reds, kicking off a six-game first month of the season, evenly split home and away. Down the stretch, the Tigers will end the season with three-consecutive away matches and will be focused on keeping their five-year playoff streak alive.
“The staff and players are excited for the season to start,” adds Tye. “We put in a lot of work throughout training camp and are eager to keep building on the progress shown throughout.”
Kickoff is this Saturday versus the Mount Allison Mounties at 5:00pm.