SYDNEY, N.S. — Ciera Disipio and Rachel Yerxa know this is their final chance to win another Atlantic University Sport championship.
The Cape Breton Capers women’s soccer players are in their fifth and final year with the program and will look to add a fourth league title to their accomplishments in Sydney this weekend.
Disipio and Yerxa will be in the lineup when the Capers host the AUS championship at the Cape Breton Health Recreation Complex on the Cape Breton University campus.
“It’s a little freaky to look back and think about all we’ve been through,” said Disipio, who’s currently enrolled in the bachelor of arts community studies program at CBU.
“I know I can probably speak for both of us, we’ve both grown not only on the field but as individuals as well.”
Disipio, a midfielder, has appeared in 58 regular-season games with the Capers over the past five seasons, recording 33 goals and 26 assists for 59 points and 176 shots on goal.
The Ottawa native has won various awards during her time with the Capers, including capturing three consecutive AUS most valuable player awards (2019, 2018 and 2017), as well as being named the league’s rookie of the year in 2015.
The 22-year-old also won three AUS titles with the Cape Breton club, along with claiming U Sports national silver and bronze medals. She was also named CBU’s first-ever top eight academic all-Canadian last year.
Despite the individual success, Disipio considers the Capers’ 2015 AUS championship as her most memorable moment.
“I remember coming in my first year and all the girls were talking about the AUS (championship) and I actually didn’t know what that was,” laughed Disipio. “I didn’t know what they were talking about until halfway through the year when the coaches brought it up and I learned it was playoffs.”
This season, Disipio played nine games for the Capers and posted three goals and eight assists, while battling an injury towards the end of the year. She finished fourth in the conference in points (11).
Like Disipio, Yerxa joined the Capers program in 2015 after beginning her soccer career with the North Mississauga Soccer Club.
“When I came here I was pretty much to myself and reserved, but with the team, I’ve come out of my shell a lot of over the last five years,” said the 22-year-old keeper.
“On the field, I think I’ve grown a lot as I’ve gotten more confident, I’ve got a lot louder on the field and able to direct the backline and the players a lot more.”
Since 2015, Yerxa has appeared in 29 regular season games for Cape Breton and has a remarkable 23-2-3 record, while posting 17 shutouts. Both losses came this season.
The AUS championship will mark the final time Disipio and Yerxa step onto the pitch in Sydney for a league game, something the graduating players haven’t thought much about.
“It still doesn’t feel like it’s my last games here, so I think until that final whistle blows it’s not going to sink in,” said Yerxa, who’s taking her bachelor of arts at CBU.
“For Ciera and I, it’s not our fourth year anymore where we’re not sure if we’re going to come back, this is the last chance we have to get another banner, so having that as extra motivation really helps.”
Disipio compares her final season to a drill the team does during practice.
“We do a 12-minute run and when one of the coaches yells for the last 60 seconds that’s the minute everyone starts busting it around the track to see if they can get a new personal best,” said Disipio.
“For me, this last season has been like that last 60 seconds because there’s no more chances after this year to win another AUS title or another U Sports medal.”
Cape Breton, which has seven rookies in its lineup, finished the regular season with a 9-2-1 record, securing second place in the AUS standings behind only the Acadia Axewomen.
The club was led offensively by rookie Alliyah Rowe of Kitchener, Ont., who led the league in goals (14) and finished tied for most points (15) with Amanda Smith of St. Francis Xavier.
The Capers will face either the St. Francis Xavier X-Women or the Memorial Sea-Hawks in the semifinal today. Game time is 4:30 p.m.
The X-Women and Sea-Hawks played Thursday afternoon, however, the score result was not available at press time. A recap of the game is available at capebretonpost.com.
“We’re going to leave it all on the field,” said Disipio. “At the end of the day, any game could be our last game for the Capers at this point, so we really do have to play as if it’s our final game.”
• Hometown: Ottawa, Ont.
• Age: 22
• Position: Midfield
• Year: 5
• University: Cape Breton
• Studies: Bachelor of Arts Community Studies
• Hometown: Mississauga, Ont.
• Age: 22
• Position: Keeper
• Year: 5
• University: Cape Breton
• Studies: Bachelor of Arts