It’s a brand-new season for the University of Manitoba’s women’s soccer team, and the team is bringing big changes to the field.
On Sept. 6 and 7 the team took on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and the University of Regina Cougars, respectively.The weekend ended in disappointment as the team lost 3-1 and 1-0.
The Bisons aren’t laying down easy though, with big plans for the future.
On Sept. 3 the University of Manitoba announced new captains, with fourth-year students Sarah Haiko, 21, defender, and goalie Chloe Werle, also 21, leading the squad.
"I definitely think being a captain is a huge privilege and a huge responsibility," said Haiko. "I’m a little nervous about it, becoming a captain. It’s a huge leadership role and you’re the link between the players and the coaches and I take that job very seriously."
Also new this year is coach Vanessa Martinez Lagunas, 31. She is the fourth a coach in the program’s nine year CIS history, and the team’s first female coach. She said they chose Haiko and Werle for their leadership on and off the field.
"Sarah has excellent leadership qualities, and in addition to that she’s a great soccer player, so she’s a leader on and off the field," said Martinez Lagunas. "Also she’s a great role model for returning players and for the rookies. Why? Because in addition to being a great soccer player and a great leader she’s also great student."
Haiko, a mechanical engineering major with one of the best grade point averages on the team, is from St. Boniface but currently resides in Southdale. She attended Nelson McIntyre Collegiate, and played for the Bonivital Flames as well as Team Manitoba.
Haiko said she has high expectations for the team.
"I love to win," said Haiko. "Last year we made it to the first round of playoffs and I really want to see that happen again. I think we have a very talented team, and we lost some key players last year, but our team has done really well this year to come together."
Before making her way to the U of M, Martinez Lagunas played for her native country of Mexico’s national team from 1999 to 2004. She also played for varsity indoor and outdoor soccer teams at the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education) in Toluca from 1999 to 2000 and its Monterrey campus from 2000 to 2002, and for the University of Texas Longhorns from 2002 to 2004.
She then played professionally in Germany for several women’s teams until 2011.
From there, she earned the highest level of coaching certification, and after coaching in Germany and being offered various positions across Europe, she decided to travel to U of M.
"I want to work with these players because they’ve shown me that they have this attitude to learn," said Martinez Lagunas. "As a coach, for me this is really important. If they show me they want to learn and have a positive attitude, then I am motivated to teach them what I can."
While at U of M she will complete her doctorate in sport science, with research on women’s soccer and the physiological aspects of the game, which she started in Germany.
While she’s studying, she expects her players to do the same.
"I really encourage my players to be good on the soccer field but also in the classroom because they are student athletes," said Martinez Lagunas. "I really want them to combine both aspects because I know it will open them many, many doors."
With Martinez Lagunas comes a new style of play that the women’s team has been putting into practice in the pre-season.
"A very, very important goal for our team this season is to make sure we are able to establish a new playing concept and style," said Martinez Lagunas. "It’s a style that the players aren’t used to yet that we have been working very hard (at) during the three weeks of pre-season."
The style is called offensive and attractive soccer, and includes being unpredictable to the other team, scoring effectiveness, and being able to switch from defensive to offensive and vice versa quickly.
"This style is coming to life," said Martinez Lagunas. "I was really satisfied as a coach that even with the very short preparation time, I could see many things on the field applied from the players."