UTM soccer opened its first season in the OCAA on September 13 with a doubleheader against perennial powerhouses and future rivals Sheridan College. The Eagles hoped to start their first season in the OCAA high with a pair of wins, but unfortunately, both the men and the women lost on opening day.

The UTM women played first, opening their first OCAA campaign with a crushing 7-0 loss against Sheridan. The match took place on a wet and rainy North Field; the rough conditions resulted in both sides fighting for victory in a battlefield littered with simple tactics.

Shortly after, the men took the field against their Sheridan opponents. The Bruins, reigning national champions in men’s soccer, intended to come to UTM for a healthy start to their title defence. The Eagles threatened early, but some strong goalkeeping stopped the UTM attack. UTM was unable to turn the deficit around, losing 2-0.

The UTM Eagles will face considerable challenges while making the leap from the intramural to the varsity level. The standard of competition is much higher at the varsity level, especially in the powerhouse OCAA, which produced three out of the past five national champions in men’s soccer. Teams like Sheridan have years of experience behind them, something that UTM will need to gain rapidly to become competitive at this level.

Robert Brown, head coach of the UTM men’s team, believes having varsity teams at UTM allows players to play at a much higher level than before, without having to take the trek downtown. Despite the slow start, Brown does believe that the team showed immense promise and talent in the indoor season last year, and that aiming for the provincials should be a realistic goal. Along with the rest of the team, Brown is looking forward to taking his coaching to the next level.

The men’s soccer team performed strongly last season in indoor soccer, beating multiple tough opponents and placing well in their tournaments. Obviously, outdoor soccer is a greater challenge; the larger field of play and greater number of players will test a team’s depth much more than the indoor game does, and the team will have to make major tactical changes to prepare for the difficulty.

The women suffered a tough loss on opening day to Sheridan, but despite the team’s inability to score, they were attacking nicely at certain moments, with decent wing play and the potential to cause the opponents some difficulties. In spite of being significantly outshot, the UTM women showed plenty of character and displayed a high level of defensive resilience in the first half.

Women’s soccer coach Damian Yearwood is entering his ninth year coaching at UTM; he’s looking forward to taking the UTM team to the varsity level. The varsity program will give students a chance to play at a much higher level, against some of the best student athletes in the province. Unlike the men’s team, Yearwood believes that the women’s team will need some rebuilding from scratch. This season will inevitably be a transitional season, with some younger athletes growing into the role.

The UTM Eagles will travel to Seneca on Wednesday to try to pick up the first away wins in UTM varsity history. The Eagles will then have their next home doubleheader on Sunday against Humber at North Field.