OLDS – With another school year now officially underway, the Olds College Broncos soccer teams are ready to tackle the 2023 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) season.
Both the women’s and men’s programs aim to take the next step in their development during Allan Siwela’s second season on the Broncos sideline.
The Broncos will begin their season with their annual southern Alberta road trip. They open the season on Saturday, Sept. 9 against the Medicine Hat College Rattlers at 2 p.m. (women) and 4 p.m. (men) before travelling to visit the Lethbridge College Kodiaks on Sunday, Sept. 10 at noon (women) and 2 p.m. (men).
From there, the Broncos will return to Richardson Pioneer Field to welcome the SAIT Trojans for their home openers on Saturday, Sept. 16 at noon (women) and 2 p.m. (men).
After a 5-5-2 regular season, the women’s soccer Broncos saw their 2022 campaign end in a hard-fought 1-0 loss to SAIT in an ACAC Championship play-in match in Calgary.
But third-year striker Tiona Paton believes it’s a match the nine returning players from the 2022 roster can use as motivation.
“Heading into that play-in game, we knew it was going to be one of – if not the – hardest game we played that season,” the Morinville native said. “I think lots of people underestimated our team that game, but with how well we played, I think that helped us gain more respect.”
Paton finished third in the ACAC with 16 goals last season to earn an ACAC South All-Conference selection, along with defender and fellow returning Bronco Kassidy Kelly (Airdrie).
The Broncos were also busy on transfers as they secured commitments from Jessie Kurek (St. Paul, Alta./Northwestern Polytechnic) and Morgan Tole (Medicine Hat/Medicine Hat College).
They also injected some local flavour in the form of Olds High School product Brynn Smith and having a familiar face in midfielder Jayna Espie-Sanderson, from Edmonton, return to the program after two seasons away.
Paton has been impressed with how the team has come together through the last month of training camp.
“From Day 1, our team has been amazing towards one another, helping each other out on and off the pitch,” she said.
“We have some funny characters and bold personalities, which keeps things interesting. Honestly, every person brings something different to the team, and there is never a dull moment.”
In similar fashion, the men’s soccer Broncos parlayed a 4-2-4 regular season record into an ACAC Championship play-in against the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings, where they lost 4-1 to end their hopes.
For 2023, the Broncos have added significant depth in all positions, while retaining a solid chunk of the defensive line that conceded only 10 goals in the regular season, good for third-best in the ACAC.
Central to the defensive efforts will be returning internationals Pedro Noschang and Emmanuel Mukolo, the latter of whom will look to build off his ACAC South All-Conference selection from last season.
“We didn’t finish the season how we wanted, so we’re playing with a chip on our shoulder, trying to prove everyone who doubted us wrong,” Mukolo said.
“That’s what’s motivating us this year, because we know the level we can play at, and I am very confident as one of the leaders in this team that we are absolutely ready to take the big step forward.”
With the added depth, Mukolo noted an uptick in the intensity of training camp practices, which has created competition all over the pitch for playing time as the team comes together.
“It was hard in the beginning because we had so many new faces, so everyone had to get comfortable with each other again,” he said.
“But that’s a challenge I feel like we overcame as a team, and as of right now, everything is coming together very well, because we feel more like a family.”
Looking to the season ahead, Mukolo said he strongly believes the Broncos are ready to compete at the ACAC’s highest levels.
“We promise the Broncos family and the fans that take their time to watch us play that we are not going to miss the championship this year,” he said.
“We are highly motivated to be in the championship, and as a team, we are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.”
Geordie Carragher is an Olds College Sports Information and Esports coordinator.