SAIT Trojans women’s soccer team make playoffs for the first time in 10 years

After a decade of missing the playoffs, the SAIT women’s soccer team has finally made the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) playoffs. A third-place finish for the Trojans in the south division wrapped up the season last Saturday.

Assistant coach Erin Schwab, who has coached with the team for the past four years after playing for SAIT for two years, knows this is a big accomplishment for the team.

“It’s huge. I get really excited for the girls every time I talk about it,” Schwab said. “I’m really proud of how far they’ve come. I’m a little bit jealous that their team made it and mine didn’t.”

The three co-captains on the team, Breanne MacLeod, Caitlan Gallant and Breanna Cisecki, said they felt that the team was looking strong going into the season and they were confident they could make it this far.

Breanne MacLeod of SAIT battles with Gina Sprinkhuysen of Lakeland College.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Collet, SAIT Athletics

MacLeod, a second-year striker, said: “Our team was better than it had been in a while, so I think we had our sights set on provincials. We came through and made it and we’re all pretty excited about that.”

Head coach Grant Stevens, who also coaches the men’s soccer team, had never been to the playoffs with the Trojans.

Cisecki, a first-year and midfielder, said Stevens drove the team to work hard.

“I think from the get-go our coach Grant pushed us. He had never taken the girls team to the provincials yet in his career. I think it was a big step for him, so he pushed us really hard.”

Setbacks throughout the season

The team battled a lot of injuries throughout the year, which made the journey to the playoffs more difficult, Gallant, a second-year midfielder, says.

“There was a series of injuries and sicknesses. I mean each one of us has been out for a little bit,” she said.

MacLeod added: “I’ve been struggling with a lot of injuries so I haven’t been able to play a lot. But you know, the team has done it and carried themselves without me.”

Since SAIT offers mostly two-year degrees, it is more difficult to maintain a solid team. Schwab sees almost half the team leave each year — which is difficult to build a foundation.

Breanna Cisecki, 21, dribbles the ball by the Olds Broncos goalkeeper in Saturday’s game at Cohos Commons field.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Collet, SAIT AthleticsSchwab said: “The hardest part about SAIT is that we have the one- and two-year programs. We’re starting to get more degree programs. But when you look at rosters like Medicine Hat this year, they have so many third-, fourth- and fifth-year players. So do a lot of the other schools.”

“Here at SAIT, we have such a high turnover rate that almost every year it’s a new team and we’re starting from scratch.”

Mount Royal University made the jump to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), (league?) which opened up a spot for another team. The Olds College Broncos filled that void.

SAIT has been competitive all year and the scores have been close.

“The team is becoming more competitive,” Schwab said. “We can compete with the top teams. We haven’t got blown out once in the games that we have lost. It’s always like one-goal games.”

Playoffs this weekend

With playoffs starting this weekend in Edmonton against the NAIT Ooks, the co-captains and assistant coach are all confident on how the team will do.

Gallant said: “I’m not too worried about which team we’re playing against. Statistics are statistics. You don’t really know how a team is until you go up against them. I think we’ll have a great chance against whatever team we meet in provincials.”

Cisecki was more boastful, claiming, “We’re going to win it all. We’re going to win all our games and go to Nationals.”

Schwab, however, gave a modest answer regarding the team’s chances by not predicting anything.

“I’d like to see the team win and go all the way,” she said. “We just need them to believe in themselves and want to win it.

“I think right now more than anything the team is surprised of everything they’ve accomplished this year but they do have the skill and they have the talent, they just need to have the confidence,” Schwab said.

nhilts@cjournal.ca