Midfielders Payton Izsak and Haley Mercier have received the Canada West nod in recognition of their outstanding first season playing for the Huskies. The two rookies were part of the nine additions to the team this fall.
Back when the additions to the women’s soccer 2018-2019 team were first announced, Head Coach Jerson Barandica-Hamilton stated that it was “one of the most impressive recruiting classes” ever. Izsak and Mercier’s success prove him right, along with strong contributions from the rookies all around.
After a season full of highs and lows, the team rallied to finish their Canada West run in the same place as last year, falling in a quarter-final against the University of Calgary Dinos.
The team had a slow start this year, achieving their first win almost a month into the season. Mercier, a first-year agriculture and bioresources student, was a standout player in the season opener, when she dominated the midfield for all 90 minutes of the game. Despite her early success, she says it took her some time to adjust to the new team.
“I knew that the opposition was going to be playing at a higher pace, considering most of them are older,” Mercier said. “We had a lot of rookies playing, and especially at the beginning of the year, it took us some time to get used to the pace of the game.”
The team rallied in the second half of the season after a back-to-back win against the University of Regina Rams on Oct. 6 and 7. Izsak, a first-year kinesiology student, was a top points-earner this year, scoring four goals in the regular season and two in playoffs. Izsak says the team started to realize their potential midseason, after getting over that initial adjustment period.
“Every year is a learning year — and we thought that this was going to be a big learning year because we are so young — but as the season went on, our mindset definitely switched,” Izsak said. “After my first year, my confidence is so much higher than it was at the beginning of the year. I hope to build off of that next year.”
With their promising team back on track, the Huskies look toward the off-season ahead with the aim to improve. Mercier hopes the team keeps the focus that they showed in the second half of this season.
“As a team, staying mentally in the game for the whole 90 minutes in one of the biggest things that we need to work on going into next year,” Mercier said. “The second half of the season, we got better at that.”
Both Izsak and Mercier are excited about their futures with the Huskies and hope to build on their successful first season, stating that the all-star team is their next goal.
“It was really exciting to find out [about the all-rookie team]. I think it puts me in a good position, going into next year, and I’m really excited about that,” Mercier said.
Reflecting on being named to the Canada West team, Izsak credits her teammates for their support.
“When I found out, I was surprised because I was scoring the goals, but a lot of my goals had really good buildup from my team,” Izsak said. “Being recognized as that player that puts the ball in the back of the net was great — finding out was an unbelievable feeling.”
Ana Cristina Camacho / Staff Writer
Photos: Heywood Yu / Supplied