With the UTM women’s soccer team gearing up for their indoor season, head coach Damian Yearwood sat down to discuss what we can expect from the team this upcoming season. Their outdoor season ended on a high note with the team winning their first outdoor varsity game against the George Brown Huskies. The team is looking to advance to Provincials for the first time since joining the Varsity league. With two practices and two training sessions a week, the girls are working hard to stay fit to meet their goal of advancing to Provincials.

Yearwood explains that the team is largely made up of the same players as last year with a few new additions. When asked about two team captains, Christina Rico and Danica Post, Yearwood commends them on their dedication and positive attitudes. “They’ve been great. They’re in their last year and they’re getting tired of being in school,” he jokes, “But they’ve been keeping their spirits up and making sure the girls are staying motivated.” Rico and Post have also paid special attention in making sure the needs of their teammates are met by asking them in a survey what they would like to see differently. The two captains are both graduating players in their fifth year of school, but are still just as motivated and committed to the team as they were in their first year.

With seven players graduating this year, the team will be largely made up of new players next season. Many of the players graduating have been on the team since their first or second years at UTM. They are hungry for a win at their regional tournament this year and want to have a shot at succeeding at provincials. Yearwood explains that last year the team came within a goal of making it to provincials. There were certain tie-breaker rules that kept them from advancing. As Yearwood puts it, “Some really dubious tie-breaker rules.” This was all done while not having their starting goal keeper. Yearwood explains, “We’ve always done really well against strong teams. We have two strong teams in our pool this year and it’s usually against the weaker teams that we’ve fallen down in the past. I don’t know why but we kind of lower ourselves to their level.” The team has a total of four tournaments, including regionals.

Based on statistics, the team seems to have a lot more success in indoor than in outdoor. When asked why, Yearwood explains, “There’s less moving pieces, and I think in outdoor, there’s a lot of nuance and tactics and little small adjustments that make a huge difference with so many different players. In indoor, you really have to take responsibility for yourself and for the area of the field.” The indoor fields are much smaller than in outdoor and they require less players on the field. This makes a huge difference with style of play. “You know that when you mess up it’s a big deal. So you know that you have to get back extra hard and help your team,” says Yearwood.

Yearwood goes on to say that, “Players who are strong in outdoor are still usually strong players indoor. It’s just a lot more movement so, a lot more responsibility. You’re looking more for players who are versatile because you have to play every position. I could have defenders up in forward attacking positions and forwards playing midfield and midfielders playing defense. So, it’s really important that everyone does their part.”

As a UTM alumnus, Yearwood’s main priority is still the education of his players. Ensuring his players graduate and receive a good education has always been his number one priority. “Finding success for them is feeling good about what they do. Wanting to come out every week and every day and train hard and work hard. I take it as failure on my part and on their part, if they’re not committed [and] if they’re not dedicated. It kind of hurts a little bit,” he explains. Success, for him, is not always about winning every game. The varsity program is still very new and has its struggles. Celebrating the victories, big or small, is what helps the team move forward. “We had our first win this year and we’ve had past games before where we’ve lost 2-1 to a team that beat us 9-0 and that was a success for us. It was almost like a win. And we’ve had draws that felt like wins.” Ultimately, however, supporting his players is really the only thing Yearwood has concerned himself with. Whether it be emotionally, academically, or as a coach on the field, Yearwood does his best to be there for his players.

Yearwood’s goal for this indoor season is for his team to win a tournament or at least make it to the finals of a tournament—the main goal is still to make it to provincials. This is something the team has been striving towards for the past three years. According to Yearwood, they’ve missed out on a goal each of those years. “For the graduating players, I want to make them feel like they gave everything they could while they were still here,” he says.

The women’s soccer team has their first friendly tournament next Saturday, January 13th at Centennial College. They are hoping for a win, but this is just the preparation for their real tournament—regionals. UTM is hoping that this is the year the team advances to provincials.