By: Dwayne Tingley
The Cape Breton Capers may be chasing their third straight AUS women's soccer title this season, but the head coach of the St. Francis Xavier X-Women says it's anybody's season.
"There is more parity than we've seen in a while in the AUS and more teams who have the capability of winning and upsetting teams," said Graham Kennedy, who is entering his sixth season as head coach of the X-Women.
The X-Women were runners-up to the Capers last year after entering the AUS championship tournament as the fourth seed.
The Capers shaded the X-Women 1-0 in the conference final then went on to capture bronze at the U SPORTS national championship.
Capers head coach Ness Timmons agrees with this assessment.
"This team never takes anything for granted," Timmons noted. "They still want to be the hardest working team in the league regardless of the finish.
"It's always fun, each season is a new team and a new start. I want our team to be great regardless of our standing. If we learn to play and compete with the qualities of a great team then the results will take care of themselves."
AUS regular season action kicks off on Friday, Sept. 6, with some opening weekend games having been rescheduled in advance of impending weather.
The UPEI Panthers visit the StFX X-Women at 1:15 p.m. At 5 p.m., the UNB Reds visit the Cape Breton Capers in Sydney, N.S., the Dalhousie Tigers visit the Moncton Aigles Bleues in Moncton, N.B., and the Mount Allison Mounties visit the Acadia Axewomen in Wolfville, N.S.
The Saint Mary's Huskies and Memorial Sea-Hawks will open their seasons Saturday, Sept. 7 as scheduled with game time set for 1 p.m. NDT in St. John's, N.L.
Acadia placed second during the 2018 regular season with a 10-1-1 record, followed by Dalhousie (7-4-1), St. Francis Xavier (5-3-4), Saint Mary's (6-5-1), Memorial (4-4-4), UPEI (3-6-3), UNB (3-7-2), Mount Allison (1-9-2) and Moncton (1-10-1).
Veteran Capers midfielder Cierra Disipio, a two-time AUS most valuable player, expects her team to learn from last year's ups and downs and have an even better year.
"At the end of the day, we want to win the AUS and I think we are optimistic in terms of gunning for that banner," said the all-Canadian and fifth-year community studies student from Ottawa.
"Nationals is a different game, it's one of those things you think about when you get there. If we get to nationals and get through that first game, we'll definitely be going for the gold medal. We have taken on the same mindset as last year and we are going for it all."
Disipio credits team chemistry for the success of the Capers.
"Soccer is a team sport—I mean in my four years I have yet to see a player go end to end with the ball themselves and score a goal," she said.
"There's a reason there are 11 players on the field. We do almost just as much off the field together as we do on the field, and I truly feel as though it has contributed to our success over the years."
Disipio represented Canada at the 30th annual FISU games in Naples, Italy this summer.
"Ciera will be able to share some of what she has learned on her travels," coach Timmons said. "All travel is a learning experience."
That experience has brought her a new perspective as she begins the AUS season.
"Personally," Disipio said, "my goal for the season is to soak it all in and have fun. I have never concerned myself with any statistics and my role as a senior on the team is to guide the younger players in the right direction on and off the field and, of course, make sure everyone is having a good time as well."
Meanwhile, Coach Kennedy, like each of his counterparts across the conference, is preparing to challenge the talented Capers for the conference title.
"There are a lot of special players in this conference and every team has some," he said. "So there are no easy games."