It’s back to school time at Red River College, and that means your Red River Rebels athletics teams are starting their seasons.
The first teams to get underway are the soccer teams, with the women’s team kicking things off this Sunday, September 11 at the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex against the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers at 1:30pm, with the men’s team kicking off their season at 3:45pm.
The women’s team is coming off a terrific 2015-2016 season under Head Coach Doug Lawrie, as they went undefeated to win the championship, winning the final 2-1 over the Brandon University Bobcats.
“Going undefeated was a tremendous accomplishment by last year’s team,” said Coach Lawrie. “It was not something we talked about through the year, but more something we looked back on after the season and realized how special it was. It is an extremely rare feat to do this, and given the improving competitiveness of our conference not a realistic goal to set at the outset.”
The Rebels have four returning players from last year’s team, with Coach Lawrie expecting this year’s team to be competitive once again. Brittany Hogeveen, Emeraude Kwilu, Paige Procter and Nadine Reimer return to try to defend their title, with a new bunch of players poised to make the Rebels tough to beat again.
“We have some tremendous speed on the wings, some very experienced playmakers in the middle and a very experienced GK in the net,” said Coach Lawrie.
“Our first objective is to make the playoffs. At that point, we must play each playoff game to the best of our ability to give us our best chance at success.”
The men’s team narrowly missed out on making the playoffs last year, posting a 4-2-4 record during the season. The off-season saw a change in coaching, with Yiannis Tsalatsidis taking over the reins going forward. The Rebels will see five players return from last year’s squad.
“The greatest strength of our team is our Rebel Identity,” said Coach Tsalatsidis. “The spirit and mindset of the team is very strong. The players and the coaching staff are aware of the past and we all have something to prove this season. The group has already gelled quite well, and I have been quite impressed with the intensity of training. Each player is fighting to earn a spot in the first 11, and for a coach this is very healthy as it forces players to be at their best day in and day out.”
Coach Tsalatsidis knows that with RRC’s 9 campuses around Manitoba, and short college program lengths, player retention and recruitment can be a challenge. However, he says that if players are being challenged and having fun, they’ll make the effort to be a part of the team.
“The expectation is develop a program that regularly competes in the championship final,” said Coach Tsalatsidis. “I also expect the school to get behind the team. Soccer is the most popular and played sport in the world and I’m certain there are 100’s of soccer fans at Red River College. I challenge them to come out to all of our games and help create an exciting game day environment.”
Coach Tsalatsidis encourages fans to travel to away games, as well as suggesting the start of a “RED ARMY” supporters group, who would collectively support the team each game like you seen in the top pro teams around the world.
“In the end we are playing for the school and our students, we are competing for the school and our students, and we want to win for the school and our students. The goal is to accomplish something special for Red River College, so come out and be a part of it, this is our team! If there is anyone who wants to take the lead and organize a “RED ARMY” supporters group, please contact me on via twitter @Yiannis_Tsala or email firstname.lastname@example.org.”