The Concordia Stingers women’s soccer team opened their 2008 regular season this weekend with 11 rookies on their roster. As the Stingers’ rookies were getting ready to make their CIS debut in front of the home crowd, it was a first year player for the UQAM Citadins who could have easily felt at home on Concordia’s pitch.
Midfielder Melanie Poirier was the leader of Concordia’s women’s soccer team for four seasons. She was Concordia’s female athlete of the year for the 2005-06 season and two years after graduating from Concordia, she is back for her fifth and final year of eligibility with UQAM.
With the Stingers opening the season in their maroon jerseys, UQAM and Poirier donned their white jerseys. Poirier wore a white jersey that was the Stingers’ home jersey for her four years at Concordia Field, only this time with a blue number four. It was a surreal experience for Concordia players and coaches.
“It was kind of weird,” said Stingers head coach Jorge Sanchez, now in his seventh season. “She had a great career at Concordia and I enjoyed coaching her,” he said.
“It was really strange to see her on the other side,” said Stingers captain Allison Burgess. “We played the same position and she was someone I learned a lot from,” she said.
Burgess was a rookie when Poirier was in her last season with the Stingers.
Poirier had an assist for her new team and was stopped on a penalty kick in a 3-1 UQAM win. Johanna van der Veen scored for the Stingers while UQAM got their goals from Andreanne Pelletier and two from Michelle Girard.
Bélanger sinks Stingers
After opening the season with a loss against UQAM, the Stingers celebrated the season’s opening on Sunday afternoon against the Sherbrooke Vert et Or.
The Stingers could not stop Sherbrooke’s Josée Bélanger. The Vert et Or forward had two goals, but could have easily have had five in the game. Bélanger, who has caught the eye of the Canadian national team, also missed two open nets and drew a penalty kick when she was tripped up in the penalty area. Her teammate Claudia Gosselin scored on the penalty to score the middle goal in a 3-0 Sherbrooke win.
“It’s tough to be successful,” said Sanchez. “We need everybody to be on the same page and have the same effort and we aren’t getting that,” he said.
“Our first half was better than Friday defensively, but we made key mistakes that cost us. Our goaltender [Fanny Berthiaume] kept us in the game,” he said.
Rookies filling big shoes
After Sunday’s loss, Sanchez singled out two rookies who were coming along nicely, and ironically both filling big shoes.
Rookies Monica White, who is wearing Poirier’s old No. 4 jersey and Molly Howes who wears No. 14 are wearing numbers worn by the last two Stinger captains (defender Erica Geertsen wore No. 14 and was the Stingers captain last year). Sanchez said he was impressed by the rookies’ play through the first two games of the season and that they are doing justice to the players that donned the jersey before them.
Burgess, currently the Stingers captain, says the team is coming together after a lengthy pre-season schedule. “We had seven exhibition games that went well, that allowed us to come together and see how everyone plays,” she said.
The team also had a five day trip to New Brunswick which was their first time staying together overnight. Burgess said the trip allowed the team to get closer and get to know one another.
She says her role as captain is a little different with so many rookies.
“We are facing teams that have been together longer,” she said. “We have a solid group of veterans who help bring the rookies together,” she said.
“It’s a lot of work,” said White, one of four rookies along with Howes, Marisa Joseph and Amanda Gabriel who started against Sherbrooke. “The veterans who have been there help a lot and to get us to have new ways of playing,” she said.
“There is a learning curve,” Sanchez said. “But it is the nature of university sport that we have a short season. We’re surviving game by game,” he said.