BIBLE HILL, N.S. – There’s no easing into the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association women’s soccer championship for the Dalhousie Rams.
The No. 8-seeded Rams hit the pitch Wednesday for a first-round match against three-time reigning national champion and No. 1-ranked Elans de Garneau of Quebec.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough opening game,” acknowledged Rams coach Jackie Ryan. “Clearly, they’re a strong program and we’re just looking at it as a good experience for the girls and the program and we’re going to do our best to stay organized and composed and just see what we can do.”
The teams meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Mainland Common field in Halifax.
Garneau has won nine Canadian titles and 13 medals in the program’s history – the most by any team in the CCAA. They breezed through the Quebec conference this season with a 7-0-3 record before blanking Champlain Saint-Lambert 1-0 in the conference final.
Indeed, the Rams face a daunting task, however, they’re not about to throw in the towel.
“It’s sport – upsets happen all the time,” said Ryan. “I would never count anyone out. We know we have a big challenge but I think there’s always a possibility.”
The Rams had a fine season of their own. They were the class of the Atlantic conference (8-1-3) and for the first time in 11 years they returned to the playoffs.
At the conference championship tournament two weeks ago in Saint John, N.B., Dal AC lost a heartbreaking semifinal game 1-0 to the Kings Blue Devils on penalty kicks.
“I think that we’ve recovered from that and if nothing else it’s motivated us a bit to just do better,” said Ryan. “And they continued to work hard in training after that and we set some new goals for ourselves and we’re just moving forward from there. We still have lots to play for and we knew that.”
In preparation for their opening match, the Rams have watched game film on Garneau. Ryan said there are certain adjustments her team will need to make, including formation changes and getting players in the right spots to be successful against a formidable opponent.
“We have to stay organized and we have to trust in each other and we need to make sure everyone is pulling their weight all around the field because when you play a team that’s as good as Garneau it’s not going to be individual efforts; it’s going to be an entire team playing at their best,” she added.
The ACAA champion St. Thomas Tommies will meet the Grande Prairie Wolves of Alberta Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Other first-round matchups are: Algonquin (Ontario) vs. Saint Lambert (Quebec), 12:30 p.m., and Douglas (B.C.) vs. NAIT (Alberta), 3 p.m.
Semifinals will be played Thursday. The bronze game is Saturday at 3 p.m., followed by the gold medal match at 5:30 p.m.