The UPEI Panthers, including from left, Danielle Younker, Kristin Hood and Jennifer Balderston are aiming to return the UPEI Panthers women’s soccer team to the Atlantic University Sport playoffs after missing the post-season the last two years. The trio combined for six of the team’s 14 goals last season.
©Charles Reid/The Guardian
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – There’s a change afoot for the UPEI Panthers women’s soccer team this season and it involves feet.
Feet that can run faster, tackle harder and score more goals with the aim of returning to the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) playoffs, which the squad’s missed the past two seasons.
And fifth-year midfielder Kristin Hood is dancing with the 2017 version’s potential.
“It’s a lot more of everything. A lot more attacking this year, faster and (getting) more goals,” said Hood, a Charlottetown native. “We really mesh well and are better prepared to get the job done.”
The quest begins Saturday when the Panthers host defending AUS champ St. FX X-Women. Game time is 3 p.m. at UPEI.
Hood is part of a core that includes captain Kelly Green, and third-years Danielle Younker and Jen Balderston.
Scoring proved a problem for UPEI last season. It netted 14 goals, the third fewest in the 10-team league, and tiny compared to Memorial’s league-leading 51 goals.
Now it did surrender 21 goals, which was seventh best, but that ratio was close enough to keep it in the playoff hunt until late in the year. UPEI missed the post-season by just two points.
Balderston, a midfielder and last year’s MVP, likes the new emphasis for the young team, which is heavy on second-year players with eight.
“We’re transitioning into a team that attacks more. We’re a young team and players have to step up and keep the pace and the energy high,” said the Cornwall native.
Defending is still the main thrust for Graeme McDonald’s group, but the Panthers head coach upped the ante given the maturing returning second-year players.
“We want to keep more possession in midfield. With more possession we can attack those (scoring) areas. Get more players in the offensive area, get more support, more creativity within boundaries,” said MacDonald. “They’re bigger, stronger, faster and more confident. After a year of experience they know what’s expected. I think we’re a team capable of making the playoffs this year.”
That’s the physical side of things.
For Younker, the Panthers 2015 rookie of the year who’s from Charlottetown, the mental end is just as important if the Panthers are to be playoff bound.
“We just need to go in with the mindset we have to work hard every game. Last year was a rebuilding year. This year the (younger) players are used to the AUS pace. We’ve added some new players (six freshmen) and we’re ready to go,” she said.
The Panthers travel to Moncton to play the Blue Eagles on Sunday at 1 p.m.
UPEI Panthers women’s soccer team roster for 2017.
Emma Adkins, midfield, 3rd year, Bonshaw
Emmy Arsenault, midfield, 3rd year, Dryden, Ont.
Jennifer Balderston, midfield, 3nd year, Cornwall
Jade-Evelyne Bellemare, forward, 3rd year, Shawinigan, Que.
Tyfannie Bordage, forward, 2nd year, Acadie Siding, N.B.
Laura Burge, midfield, 1st year, Stratford
Kamren Chaisson, midfield, 1st year, Charlottetown
Lauren Clark, forward, 1st year, Charlottetown
Carly Connell, forward, 2nd year, Charlottetown
Cassidy Doucette, defence, 4th year, Rustico
Madyson Doucette, defence, 2nd year, Rustico
Raine Easton, defence, Nerepis, N.B.
Jenna Mae Ellsworth, defence, 2nd year, Charlottetown
Hailey Fleming, goalkeeper, 2nd year, Charlottetown
Kelly Green, defence, 4th year, Charlottetown
Rachel Green, midfield, 1st year, Borden-Carleton
Erin Groman, midfield, 2nd year, New Dominion
Kristin Hood, midfield, 5th year, Charlottetown
Bailey MacDonald, midfield, 1st year, Westville, N.S.
Sarah MacVarish, forward, 2nd year, Stratford
Andrea Mahoney, midfield, 2nd year, Sydney, N.S.
Courtney McRorie, midfield, 4th year, Rustico
Ali Muise, goalkeeper, 1st year, Charlottetown
Amanda Stanyer, goalkeeper, 3rd year, Port Coquitlam, B.C.
Danielle Younker, midfield, 3rd year, Charlottetown
Graeme McDonald, head coach.
Janos Barna, assistant coach.
Jess Reynolds, manager.