Although UTM is not usually known for their athletic success, over the last couple years the mens and womens intramural soccer teams seem to prove otherwise. Both of these teams are off to great starts in the Tri-Campus leagues this term. The women meanwhile are looking to defend their championship title.
Recently, both our mens and womens teams did quite well against OCAA Varsity opponents in the 16th annual George Brown Varsity Soccer Tournament on Saturday February 7. The Mens team delivered one of the most lopsided victories in the tournament — a 9-1 win against St. Lawrence Cornwall. Despite their 3-1 record heading into the tournament semi-finals, they were not able to capitalize on the opportunity and would end up losing 4-1 to Redeemer, a result that would eliminate them from the tournament.
On the other hand, the womens team success comes as an even bigger surprise because of the challenges confronting them. The Womens coach Damian Yearwood was fully aware of the obstacles and disadvantages his team had to overcome this year if they held any ambitions of defending their title.
Its a much different team from the team I coached last year. Most of our experienced players have graduated and about half the team is made up of first years. A variety of girls will take on the responsibility as needed, so things are a bit more organic this year, said Yearwood. As Tri-Campus indoor champions from last year and Division One outdoor champions last semester, all the other teams will be gunning for us; something I am constantly reminding the team, added the coach.
Much of the womens team is inexperienced, and they also lack a captain. There is also added pressure on them to defend their title; the coach expects nothing less from this years team. He understands that this team cannot simply defend their title through raw talent alone. They will need to earn each victory with scrappy play, hard work and a constant effort both defensively and offensively.
Yearwood has done an impressive job with this crop of players, using hard work, extra preparation and persistent motivation to maximize his teams potential. Weve been practicing about twice a week (most teams practice once) in order to prepare ourselves for the challenges well be facing this year. I tend to work my players hard in practice; at times our sessions resemble a boot camp more than a soccer practice.
But in order to be a player on his team, he cites dedication as the one of the main qualities he expects from each and every one of his players. He needs his players to collaboratively dedicate themselves to the goal of winning and maintaining this mindset throughout the entire season.
I base my teams around players who want to play, want to get better, and can work with the rest of the team. The number one attribute I look for in players is their work ethic. Are they going to give up on a ball because theyre tired? Will they come back and defend even after they just sprinted 60 yards up field? said Yearwood.
At the George Brown Varsity Soccer Tournament, the womens team managed to make it to the finals only to lose a 2-1 heartbreaker against Seneca. Although he would have liked his team to win the tournament, Yearwood remains confident in his team and considers the tournament to be a success, rating the teams play an eight out of ten. With more than half of the tri-campus season left to play, he sees plenty of room for his team to improve before the end of the season and fully expects them to bring the trophy back to UTM for another year.