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MCAC Socer Final Fours Preview

It has been the most competitive season of soccer the MCAC has seen in a long time, and after a full schedule of upsets, draws, dominance, and a seemingly never-ending standings swap, we are one step closer to crowning a champion.
 
Hosted by Providence University College in Otterburne, Manitoba, the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference Soccer Final Fours will be taking place this weekend, Saturday, October 25, and Sunday, October 26, in what is shaping up to be one of the premiere soccer tournaments in the Province this year.
 
In one of the many subplots in this single elimination playoff, you could say it’s a picture perfect scenario for the two-time defending champion Providence Pilots to make it a three peat on their home pitch. Both teams (men and women) have been playing their best soccer as of late, and they will be riding a home crowd who has proven to be one of the loudest in the league. But with this season being one of the most evenly matched in years, all bets are off as every team remaining can win on any given day.
 
Although the Pilots women's team will go into the semi-finals as the top seed, the likes of Red River College, and the newcomers out of Brandon University have played them tough all year long, and have played a large part in the parity of the conference this season. Those two contenders face off in the first semi-final of the day, while the home-team Pilots will face their rivals out of CMU, who will have all of the motivation in the world to knock off the defending champs on their own soil.
 
For the men, Universit√© de Saint-Boniface have emerged as the top-dogs in the conference, finishing with an undefeated record in this ten game season. Their first match will be against CMU, who are fresh off their impressive 5-0 victory against Brandon in a game that solidified their spot in the Final Fours. They’ll be looking to carry that momentum against a Les Rouges team who has yet to really stumble at all this season.
 
The men’s host team takes on Red River College, who stunned them at home to start the Pilots season earlier this fall. A repeat performance would put them into the Finals, and they’ll be trying to do just that in front of what should be a packed crowd in Otterburne.
 
Below is the schedule for the Soccer Final 4’s. Single-day passes are $5.00 and can be purchased upon entry, and member school students with valid student ID get in for free.
 
Saturday, October 25, 2014
 
Women's Semi-final #1: BU vs RRC - 9:00 am
Men's Semi-final #1: CMU vs USB - 11:00 am
Women's Semi-final #2: CMU vs PUC - 1:30 pm
Men's Semi-final #2: RRC vs PUC - 3:30 pm
 
Sunday, October 26, 2014
 
Women's Championship: 1:00 pm
Men's Championship: 3:00 pm

Holly Kalynuik named Week 6 Athlete of the Week

When a team enters its first year of competition, you expect the adjustment to take a while to even out before you can make a real assessment of your team’s identity. Just six weeks into their inaugural season in the MCAC and one thing is for sure – the Bobcats are for real.
 
After seven games, Brandon’s bread and butter has been defence, as they’ve only allowed six goals against all season. Anchoring that defence has been Holly Kalynuik, and in a whirlwind first season, her composure has been a major constant for the first-year Bobcats.
 
“Holly has a calm, dependable, reassuring presence in the back, and is exactly the kind of player you want in front of your goalie,” says head coach Rainer Schira. “She played both inside and centre-defence with equal skill, she played 180 minutes this weekend, and has played every minute of every game this season.”
 
After already recording four shutouts this season, Kalynuik and the rest of her defensive squad is something everyone in the MCAC should be worried about. Regardless of their seed, nobody will be taking the Bobcats lightly, and if Kalynuik and her teammates are up for the challenge as they have been all season, look for Brandon to really make some noise in the Final Fours two weekends from now.
 
Kalynuik is in her third year studying English at Brandon University.

Vasilios Giannopoulos named Week 6 Athlete of the Week

Before Week 6 began, things weren’t looking good for the first-year Brandon Bobcats. They were nine points out of a playoff spot, and were up against two teams who both had already beaten them earlier in the season. It was a long shot, but mathematically they were still alive. And now here we are – after an incredible effort going 2-0 against CMU and Red River last weekend, the Bobcats are potentially one win away from doing what looked to be impossible: earning a spot in the MCAC Final Fours.
 
Although the team as a whole deserves a lot of credit, they certainly couldn’t have done it without Vasilios Giannopoulos. The dynamic 6’1” forward has been on a scoring tear as of late, which has put him tied for the league-lead with seven goals on the season. Two of those goals were against CMU last weekend, helping his team pick up the most important victory of the year, putting them within striking distance of a Final Four Spot.
 
As a late addition to the team, Giannopoulos has been critical for his team’s final push of the season, and his impact certainly isn’t lost on head coach Terry McGonigle.
 
“Vasilios is a major impact player that generates pressure on the opposition the moment he steps on the field,” says coach Terry McGonigle. “His stats speak volumes to the type of player he is. He’s our leading goal scorer, despite being a late addition to our team and missing time due to injury. Best of all, the threat he provides on offence helps our defense and mid-fielders create more scoring opportunities.”
 
Giannopoulos and his Bobcats squad are in a literal must-win next week as they take on Assiniboine Community College in an all-Brandon matchup. The Bobcats will hope to recreate their 6-1 victory against ACC earlier in the year – a matchup where Giannopoulos scored five goals. If they’re able to take that win, they’ll still have to hope for a CMU loss, as the Blazers will control their own destiny in Week 7. One thing’s for sure: it’s definitely going to be an exciting week in the MCAC.

Jessica Caul named Week 4/5 Athlete of the Week

When you win two straight championships, there’s always going to be a lot of pressure to go back and make it three. This is the case for the Providence Pilots this season. After suffering their first MCAC loss since 2012 in Week 3, Providence needed a spark - and that’s exactly what they got from second-year forward Jessica Caul.

Despite scoring in their big victory against CMU, and assisting on the game-winning goal against Brandon, it has been Caul’s intelligence and movement away from the ball which had head coach Dante Calla using the word “outstanding” to describe Caul’s play in these last two weeks.

According to Calla, Caul has always been a talented and dedicated player, but after meeting with her coach two weeks ago to find ways to really ignite her play, Caul responded in a big way.

“She responded like a champion,” says Calla. “Her attitude and willingness to work on every aspect of her game, and her focus on making sure she gets better each practice has been impressive to watch. This is the best she has played in 2 years.”

The Pilots will have a tough few weeks ahead of them, as the competition for the MCAC title is greater than it’s been in years. If they want to achieve their goals, it may take more efforts like Caul’s to make this MCAC season another successful one.

Seifeddine Dhaoui named Week 4/5 Athlete of the Week

With all of the storylines centred on change in the 2014 MCAC season, Week 5 saw yet another one emerge as Saint-Boniface has officially taken over first place in the conference. As far as the Rouges squad goes, the key has been consistency – and that’s exactly what they’ve seen from midfielder Seifeddine Dhaoui.

Dhaoui’s story is a feel-good one. After undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus, the third-year player had to sit out the entire 2013 season. Knowing from the start that he wouldn’t be able to compete, “Seif”, as he’s known in the locker room, decided to offer his expertise for his team as an assistant coach. While Saint-Boniface had a great year last year making it to the MCAC Finals, they’re looking to eclipse that this season – and with Dhaoui’s help on the pitch, that goal is looking more possible than ever.

Dhaoui has four goals this season, good for second on his undefeated team, but according to head coach Justin Legare, it’s his defensive play that has made him a truly dominant player.

“He’s normally an offensive-minded player, but as his knee gets stronger and Seif gets his game fitness back, he has really stepped up his defensive game without effecting his offensive contributions to the team,” says Legare.

Many have Saint-Boniface targeted as the team to beat in 2014, and it’s hard to argue with their 5-1-0 record, which has included massive wins in Week 4 and 5 against other top teams like Red River, and the defending champion Providence Pilots. The Rouges possess a great deal of skill, and being led by a player like Dhaoui who has not only the skill, but the dedication and leadership skills necessary to win, they’re going to be a tough matchup for anyone in the MCAC.

Weeks 4 and 5 have been combined due to only two games being played in Week 4. 

Bailee Ploshynsky named Week 3 Athlete of the Week

It was a historic week in the MCAC for Brandon University, as the women’s Bobcats team made their first big splash in the league last weekend. If grabbing their school’s very first MCAC win in just their second game wasn’t enough, the Bobcats came out and played the league’s first-place team to a draw the very next day.

At the centre of their early success is the same name you can read all over the Brandon scoresheets – Bailee Ploshynsky. The 5’9” forward notched two key goals in Brandon’s 3-0 shutout against CMU, as well as the team’s lone goal against Red River. This comes to no surprise, as it was also Ploshynsky who broke the ice for the Bobcats this season, scoring the team’s first goal in MCAC history in Week 2.

Ploshynsky is now tied for the league lead in scoring, and has compiled some high praise from head coach Rainer Schira, who is as impressed as anyone with her high level play so far this season.

“Bailee's three goals this week are only the objective, measurable result of her affect on the BU Bobcats,” says Schira. “She is focused on not only raising her effort and skill-level, but also on those of her team-mates, constantly encouraging and helping everyone on the team. Cheerful, dynamic, and committed - that's Bailee”

A player who not only shows up on the scoresheet, but also makes her team better is exactly the kind of athlete who will find success in this league. The skill and teamwork of the Bobcats certainly has the team started off on the right foot – and with a player like Bailee Ploshynsky leading the charge, this could be just the beginning of good things for the Bobcats this season.

Benjamin Grass named Week 3 Athlete of the Week

If kicking off the season’s first two weeks on the winning side of an 11-1 goal differential wasn’t enough for competition to take notice, then the Red River Rebels officially turned some heads in Week 3.

In their first game of the weekend, the Rebels faced the defending champion Providence Pilots, and took care of business with a convincing 5-2 victory. The difference in this one was a newcomer in the MCAC, midfielder Benjamin Grass – and if his performance so far is any indication, he could also be the difference for the Rebels season.

Grass notched two huge goals in the Pilots game, and followed it up with another one in the Rebels 4-2 victory against Brandon, accumulating three goals and two assists in a massive weekend for Red River. The Schanzenfeld, Germany native has shown great potential so far this year, and has head coach Jordan Goetting very impressed with not just his goal scoring, but his two-way game as well.

Grass will have to wait to test his skills on the MCAC pitch again, as the Rebels aren’t on the schedule for this weekend. But as it seems right now, his play is going to be a huge factor for the team as Red River tries to continue their dominance in the MCAC this season.

Grass is in his first year of Civil Engineering at Red River College.