The University of Calgary men's soccer team will kick off their regular season with two home games this weekend. Coach Andy Gibbs is looking to improve on their 2-8 record from last season and make the playoffs. The team is enthusiastic after a solid pre-season showing on their tour of British Columbia. A tie against the University of British Columbia and a one-goal loss to the University of Victoria showed the Dinos can be competitive against the favourites in the Canada West conference. And with half of the 20- man roster filled by rookies, a shot of confidence is just what the team needed.
"We gave a lot of playing time to our rookies and the team gelled very well," said Gibbs. "We proved to ourselves that we could play against the top teams in the country."
As for their opposition, Gibbs had nothing but praise.
"This year, the team to beat is Victoria," he said. "Them, UBC and Alberta are traditionally the strongest in our conference."
But despite this tradition, Gibbs sees the Dinos on the same level as the big boys this season.
"We have a great shot at second or third in Canada West this year," he remarked. "Once we make the playoffs it's just one game at a time."
The road to success will begin this week at home against the University of Alberta on Saturday and against the University of Saskatchewan on Sunday.
"We hope to come out with two wins this weekend," said Gibbs. "It's a short season and we have to make all our games count."
For leadership, the young team will turn to fifth-year goaltender Mike Willis.
"We're looking for a lot from Mike," said Gibbs. "He and the other veterans need to step up and lead the team."
Willis is ready to assume the leadership role.
"It takes some getting used to but you have to assume the role as a veteran player," he remarked. "It's too much to ask a first or second- year player to lead the team no matter what their skill level may be."
"I'm not worried about the youth component of our team," said Gibbs. "The guys worked on their skills a lot over the winter and it really showed in our exhibition games."
As for the level the team can reach this season, Willis is just as optimistic as his coach.
"It's fair to say we're competitive," said Willis. "There is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of excitement in this camp about what we can do, and the way it stacks up, we are confident we can reach the playoffs this year.
"I heard somebody say that confidence is contagious, and if I can have some confidence [in goal] my teammates will go forward, take some chances and not be afraid of turnovers because they believe I can make the save."
The Dinos will have a hard year ahead of them, but the impressive showing on their exhibition tour out west gives high hopes for the 2000 season.