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Rams on the rise

Stellarton’s Katie Walsh has been a key addition to the Dal-AC women’s soccer team. Walsh joined the Rams this season after playing four years of university soccer at St. FX.
Stellarton’s Katie Walsh has been a key addition to the Dal-AC women’s soccer team. Walsh joined the Rams this season after playing four years of university soccer at St. FX.

BIBLE HILL, N.S. – A special group of players is doing special things on the pitch this season for the Dalhousie Rams women’s soccer team.

After a lengthy playoff drought, the Rams are enjoying a highly successful turnaround season as they look to win the campus’ first Atlantic Colleges Athletic Association title since 2006.

“We have had a goal since the beginning of the season, and our goal is to be top four so we can make that playoff tournament and go from there,” said Rams coach Jackie Ryan, of Stellarton.

So far, so good.

The Rams, who went 5-7 last season and missed the playoffs for the 10th straight year, are currently the ACAA’s top team with a record of 5-1-2, four points clear of the second-place St. Thomas Tommies.

The team has five returning players from last year’s squad on its roster, including All-Canadian Sian Rankin. A successful summer of recruiting resulted in key additions Katie Walsh and Shanice Maxwell, both of whom have playing experience at the AUS level.

“We recruited and brought people in and then we had some really nice surprises as well – a couple of girls that contacted me and were coming to this school and they just turned out to be fantastic players,” Ryan said.

“It’s a combination of hard work and talent and it’s just been going their way.”

Walsh, a centre mid-fielder, came to the Rams after four years with the St. FX X-Women. The Stellarton native is reunited with Ryan, who she played for in high school at Northumberland, and she’s thrilled to be part of a program on the upswing.

“To be able to see how it’s turned around, and it’s directly a product of the girls that are here and the work that we’re all putting in, so I just think that’s great to be a part of and to help contribute to that.”

The Rams didn’t exactly explode out of the gate this season. In fact, they got off to a quiet start, falling 3-1 to the Holland Hurricanes in their opener before a 1-1 tie with the Mount Saint Vincent Mystics in their second game.

Sian Rankin of the Dal-AC Rams has been one of the team’s top players since coming to Bible Hill from Edmonton three years ago. Rankin was named ACAA conference rookie of the year in 2015 and was a CCAA All-Canadian last year.

There were positives, however, that came from those early season matches, including the opportunity for Ryan and her fellow coaches to assess the team and subsequently put players in positions to be successful.

In the six games that have followed, the Rams have posted a brilliant 5-0-1 record while outscoring the opposition by a combined 10-2 margin, including four straight shutouts.

“We left that second game going, ‘OK, we have our lineup, we know where everyone should be,’ and we felt confident going from there, and ever since then we haven’t changed a whole lot,” said Ryan.

The Rams’ success is coming at an opportune time, as the team will co-host the Canadian championship tournament with the Kings Blue Devils Nov. 8 to 11 at the Mainland Commons field in Halifax.

Dal AC has four regular-season games remaining, including its final home game on Saturday when they host the Crandall Chargers (3-5-0) for a 2 p.m. start.

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Rams crack national rankings

BIBLE HILL, N.S. – The success of the Dalhousie Rams hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The Rams have cracked the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association top-15 rankings list, checking in at No. 12 this week. Last week, the Rams made their debut on the list at No. 14.

The secret to their success?

“Just hard work,” said third-year player Sian Rankin. “I think we’ve got a really good group of girls out here. We’ve all connected really well and we have good chemistry.”

Elans de Garneau of Quebec is the top-ranked team, while Algonquin Thunder (Ontario), NAIT Ooks (Alberta), Douglas Royals (Pac West) and GPRC Wolves (Alberta) round out the top five.

No. 15 St. Thomas is the only other ACAA team on the list.

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Maxwell playing final college season at home

BIBLE HILL, N.S. – For Shanice Maxwell, it’s good to be home.

After spending four years with the Cape Breton Capers AUS women’s soccer team, Maxwell joined Dal-AC this fall and has been a key contributor for the first-place Rams.

Shanice Maxwell

“It’s great to be able to play at home,” said Maxwell, a Truro native and former high school soccer standout at CEC. “I heard that we were going to have a strong team … so I said, why not, I might as well give it all I got for my last year, and now I’m here at my home pitch, so it’s awesome.”

Maxwell graduated from CBU with a recreational leadership degree two years ago. She attended hair dressing school last year, and jumped at the chance to join the Rams this season when contacted by coach Jackie Ryan.

Maxwell’s extensive resume includes an AUS title with the Capers in 2013. She was also named an AUS all-star in 2012, the same year she won the Golden Boot award for leading the Nova Scotia Soccer League’s senior women’s division with nine goals as a member of Suburban.

 

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