CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The UPEI Panthers are looking to get back to the playoff for the first time since 2014 as the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) women’s soccer season kicks off this weekend.
The squad is still comprised of a number of second- and third-year players but has a couple of key fourth-year veterans on the roster.
“This is the year where the playoffs have to be an achievable objective for our team,” said head coach Graeme McDonald, who was hired in February 2014.
There’s no easing into the regular season for the Panthers as they are in St. John’s, N.L., to play a Memorial Sea-Hawks squad that has regularly been atop the table in recent seasons. They play today and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Atlantic.
“We need to be very organized defensively and have to step up physically as well against a really strong, tough Memorial team,” McDonald said.
After about three weeks of training camp and pre-season games, the team is looking forward to getting the regular seasons underway.
“We feel prepared,” McDonald said. “The preparation going into this weekend has been excellence.”
Captains Jen Balderston and Danielle Younker are both in their fourth years and will play key roles for the Panthers this season.
“They’ve had lots of experience playing in the last three years, so we’ll lean on them,” McDonald said.
He noted third-year Jenna Mae Ellsworth is also key on the back-line while Jade-Evelyne Bellemare is back for her fourth season and Tyffannie Bordage is in her third season.
A decision hadn’t made Friday which keeper, Amanda Stanyer or Ali Muise, will start today’s opener.
“Both of the keepers have looked really good in practice this week,” McDonald said. “We have confidence in both keepers.”