With October coming to an end and the leaves beginning to fall, the ACAC soccer regular season has come to a close. NAIT’s men’s and women’s teams finished with a record of 8-2-2 and 7-3-2 and are headed to the playoffs to compete for a conference championship. The postseason kicks off on Thursday, October 26, so here is a look at how the blue and gold fare heading into the postseason.
Coming off a 2-1 win over The King’s University Eagles on October 22, the men finished second in the North Division. This is the 18th consecutive playoff berth for the program.
The team recorded two losses in this year’s campaign, the most since 2016. However, the group still had two players named to the All-Conference team and handed first-seed Keyano College Huskies one of their two defeats this season. The team remained competitive this year despite a lot of new blood in their system–the Ooks roster features 19 of 24 players who are in their second year or earlier.
The Ooks finished second in the ACAC for goals scored and goals against. Forward Felix Mutuyemungu and striker Elijah Bossio combined for 12 of the Ooks’ 39 goals and were backed by a dominant performance in net by Connor Short, who finished second in the ACAC for save percentage with .820.
The men have an opportunity to win their 12th conference title with ACAC North Division Player of The Year Peter Jones and ACAC North Division Rookie of The Year Choosen Jones on their side. The men’s journey starts on Thursday, October 26, against the Lethbridge Kodiaks.
After starting the year 6-1-1, the women’s team went 1-2-1 in their last four games, with the two losses coming at the hands of the first-seed team, the Concordia Thunder.
Clinching the third and final seed in the North Division, the Ooks will face off against the South Division SAIT Trojans on Thursday, October 26.
With the Trojans and Ooks set to square off for an opportunity to play in the gold medal match, the blue and gold will have their hands full when playing against SAIT’s lethal offence. However, the Ooks thrived with Goalkeeper Carly Speelman in the net. The second-year Business Administration student stopped all but five shots this year and boasted a .848 save percentage, the third-best in the ACAC.
While Speelman’s excellence in net helped the Ooks defensively, Forward Sarah Weremczuk and Lamisi Sirett carried the load on offence, scoring 10 of the team’s 34 goals. Like the men’s team, the majority of the women’s roster is in their first and second year, with only five players in their third year or later. In spite of the group’s youthful lineup, first-year Head Coach Dhee Govender led the team to their 13th consecutive playoff appearance.
The challenge of overcoming SAIT will be difficult for the young Ooks, with the Trojans only allowing five goals this season. But, NAIT has a chance to repeat history like they did in 2022 when the third-seed Ooks sent SAIT home early and defeated them in the quarter-finals. If NAIT pulls off the upset against SAIT again, watch for Sarah Weremczuk and Lamisi Sirett to play a crucial part in the group’s effort.
The three-day event kicks off at 10:00 am on Thursday, as the women take on SAIT followed by the men playing Lethbridge at 5:30 pm.