CORNWALL — The Francois-Xavier Garneau Élans know they have a bull’s-eye on them this week.
The Quebec City team doesn’t back down from the target that’s on their backs from being the two-time defending Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association women’s soccer champs.
“There is some pressure, for sure, but we can handle it,” Marie-Sandra Ujeneza said Tuesday before practice.
“We have a lot of veterans on the team, so I think our experience is good for us,” added coach Guillaume Couillard.
They start their quest for a third championship in as many years tonight at 5:30 p.m. against the host Holland College Hurricanes.
“It is really important,” Ujeneza said, of getting off to a quick start. “It’s against the host team, so it’s going to be a pretty amazing game.”
The 18-year-old defender, who is in her second and final year with the Elans, is looking at wrapping up her career with another title.
“We’re super excited,” she said.
The Elans, who have a record six women’s national championships, won gold last year on home turf in Quebec City with a 2-1 victory over the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks.
The two teams played in the final the year before with F.X. Garneau winning 3-0.
The Elans enter this year’s tournament with only one loss on their record.
“In the playoffs, we played very well,” Couillard said. “We are happy with where the team is (at) the moment.”
Many of the same teams, who competed in last year’s event, are back this year. The championship has been expanded this year from six to eight teams.
The only school that is not back this year is the University of King’s College. They are replaced by the Atlantic champs from Mount Saint Vincent while this year’s other new teams are the Hurricanes and the Concordia Thunder from Edmonton.
Concordia is no stranger to the nationals, having won the 2009 title in Etobicoke, Ont.
The Thunder climbed the national rankings from nine to one this season before losing their championship game to NAIT in a blizzard.
Coach Dean Cordeiro knows his players will be ready to go.
“Going into a competition like this they’ve already seen what the outcome could be if we’re not prepared and you can’t use weather as an excuse,” he said. “We just have to go out here and play 90 minutes of our game and our brand. If we do that, we’ll be OK.”
Getting off to a strong start in the opening minutes will be key for teams today.
A loss in the opening game means a team can finish no higher than third. Teams must win their first game to have a chance at being crowned champions.
“Every game is a big game,” Cordeiro said Thursday. “If you want to be the best you have to beat all the best teams from the different provinces, and it starts tomorrow.”
Canadian Collegiate Athletic
Association women’s soccer
What: An eight-team soccer tournament.
When: Today to Saturday.
Where: Terry Fox Sports Complex in Cornwall.
10 a.m. - No. 3 Thompson Rivers University (B.C.) vs. No. 6 Indiennes d’Ahuntsic (Quebec)
12:30 p.m. - No. 2 Northern Alberta Institute of Technology vs. No. 7 Mount Saint Vincent (N.S.)
3 p.m. - No. 4 Humber (Ontario) vs. No. 5 Concordia (Alberta)
5:30 p.m. - No. 1 F.X. Garneau (Quebec) vs. No. 8 Holland
Note - Teams losing their opening game still have a chance to reach the bronze-medal contest.
Online - http://ccaa.ca/womenssoccer2012/
The following are the champions
for the past 10 years:
2011- Collège François-Xavier-Garneau (RSEQ)
2010 - Collège François-Xavier-Garneau (RSEQ)
2009 - Concordia University College of Alberta (ACAC)
2008 - Langara College (BCCAA)
2007 - Collège François-Xavier-Garneau (FQSE)
2006 - Langara College (BCCAA)
2005 - Langara College (BCCAA)
2004 - Collège François-Xavier-Garneau (RSEQ)
2003 - Collège François-Xavier-Garneau (RSEQ)
2002 - Collège François-Xavier-Garneau (RSEQ)
The following are some of the country’s leading scorers that are participating in this week’s CCAA championship:
Player, college GP G
Megan Spicer, HC 10 20
Leanne Kadatz, NAIT 10 19
Lindsay Butler, Concordia 10 18
Joelle Gosselin, Garneau 10 16
Kacey Paplawski, Concordia 10 10
Jessica Oliver-Hill, MSVU 10 9