The Golden Bears soccer team has consistently been an elite team in Canada West over the past few years. Although they haven’t won a Canada West title since 2011, the Bears haven’t finished lower than third place in their division since 2007, and continue to enjoy a great amount of success within the conference – consistently finishing towards the top of the standings. Despite their success within their conference, the Bears haven’t won on a national level since winning the CIS championship on home turf in 2006.
The Bears played most of last season without star striker Marcus Johnstone, who still managed to break the all-time goal scoring record for a Bears soccer player, surpassing Brett Colvin with 29. Johnstone was on pace for a massive season last year, scoring five goals in his first five games before his injury. With Johnstone having graduated, the Bears will have to find other ways of putting the ball in the net. C.J. Gilroy led the team in goals in Johnstone’s absence last year with six,and the Bears were still able to find the back of the net with regularity – their 30 goals as a team ranking second in their division.It will take a smililarly balanced attack this year for the Bears to be successful offensively, as Johnstone graduated this past year.
The Bears put up a 6-3-3 record last season, which was good for third in the prairie division. It was an up and down year for the team, as Marcus Johnstone went down with an injury five games into last season, and they struggled on the road, posting a 1-3-2 record away from Foote Field. This poor road performance was punctuated by a season ending series in Saskatchewan where they were outscored 10-2 in two games. These poor road results were contrasted with a very strong 5-0-1 home record, and a very strong goal differential of 14. As a result of their turbulent season, the Bears certainly weren’t the favourites heading into the Canada West finals, but they managed to upset the powerhouse UBC Thunderbirds in the Canada West semifinals 2-0. Even though they lost in the finals to Saskatchewan, they still qualified for CIS Nationals, where they lost a pair of close games to the University of Quebec at Montreal Citadins and the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers.
Like last season, the Bears will only meet opponents from the Prairie division this year. This bodes well for a bears squad, as the pacific division houses two excellent teams in the Victoria Vikes and the UBC Thunderbirds – the latter being the 2013 CIS champions. The prairie division isn’t full of pushovers, as the Saskatchewan Huskies were a dominant team in their own right last season, posting a 9-1-2 record, and boasting the best offence in Canada West, scoring 44 goals while only conceding 13. The Calgary Dinos are also no slouch, finishing with a 9-3-0 record last year, and showed a penchant for winning low scoring games, as they scored half as many goals as the Huskies but won the same amount of games. The Bears will have to prove themselves against both the Huskies and the Dinos if they want to come out on top of the prairie division this year.
The Bears will find in tough to fully replace Johnstone’s goal scoring abilities, and it will be difficult to top the prairie division against Saskatchewan and Calgary. Despite this, they should still make it out of the division and will be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.