Built ram tough

Af­ter miss­ing the play­offs for 10 straight years, the Dal­housie Rams women’s soc­cer team is en­joy­ing a turn­around sea­son.

Truro Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOEY SMITH

A spe­cial group of play­ers is do­ing spe­cial things on the pitch this sea­son for the Dal­housie Rams women’s soc­cer team.

Af­ter a lengthy play­off drought, the Rams are en­joy­ing a highly suc­cess­ful turn­around sea­son as they look to win the cam­pus’ first At­lantic Col­leges Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion ti­tle since 2006.

“We have had a goal since the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, and our goal is to be top four so we can make that play­off tour­na­ment and go from there,” said Rams coach Jackie Ryan, of Stellarton. So far, so good.

The Rams, who went 5-7 last sea­son and missed the play­offs for the 10th straight year, are cur­rently the ACAA’s top team with a record of 5-1-2, four points clear of the sec­ond-place St. Thomas Tom­mies.

The team has five re­turn­ing play­ers from last year’s squad on its ros­ter, in­clud­ing All-Cana­dian Sian Rankin.

A suc­cess­ful sum­mer of re­cruit­ing re­sulted in key ad­di­tions Katie Walsh and Shan­ice Maxwell, both of whom have play­ing

ex­pe­ri­ence at the AUS level.

“We re­cruited and brought peo­ple in and then we had some

re­ally nice sur­prises as well – a cou­ple of girls that con­tacted me and were coming to this school and they just turned out to be fan­tas­tic play­ers,” Ryan said.

“It’s a com­bi­na­tion of hard work and tal­ent and it’s just been

go­ing their way.”

Walsh, a cen­tre mid-fielder, came to the Rams af­ter four years with the St. Fran­cis Xavier X-Women. The Stellarton na­tive is re­united with Ryan, who she played for in high school at Northum­ber­land, and she’s thrilled to be part of a pro­gram on the up­swing.

“To be able to see how it’s turned around, and it’s di­rectly a prod­uct of the girls that are here and the work that we’re all putting in, so I just think that’s great to be a part of and to help con­trib­ute

to that.”

The Rams didn’t ex­actly ex­plode out of the gate this sea­son. In fact, they got off to a quiet start, fall­ing 3-1 to the Hol­land Hur­ri­canes in their opener be­fore a 1-1 tie with the Mount Saint Vin­cent Mys­tics in their sec­ond game.

There were pos­i­tives, how­ever, that came from those early sea­son matches, in­clud­ing the op­por­tu­nity for Ryan and her fel­low coaches to as­sess the team and sub­se­quently put play­ers in po­si­tions to be suc­cess­ful.

In the six games that have fol­lowed, the Rams have posted a bril­liant 5-0-1 record while outscor­ing the op­po­si­tion by a com­bined 10-2 mar­gin, in­clud­ing four straight shutouts.

“We left that sec­ond game go­ing, ‘OK, we have our lineup, we know where ev­ery­one should be,’ and we felt con­fi­dent go­ing from there, and ever since then we haven’t changed a whole lot,” said Ryan.

The Rams’ suc­cess is coming at an op­por­tune time, as the team will co-host the Cana­dian cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment with the Kings Blue Devils Nov. 8 to 11 at the Main­land Com­mons field in Hal­i­fax.

Dal AC has four reg­u­lar-sea­son games re­main­ing, in­clud­ing their fi­nal home game on Satur­day when they host the Cran­dall Charg­ers (3-5-0) for a 2 p.m. start.

J. sMiTH PHoTo

Stellarton’s Katie Walsh has been a key ad­di­tion to the Dal-AC women’s soc­cer team. Walsh joined the Rams this sea­son af­ter play­ing four years of univer­sity soc­cer at St. Fran­cis Xavier.

J. SMITH PHOTO

Sian Rankin, left, of the Dal-AC Rams has been one of the team’s top play­ers since coming to Bi­ble Hill from Ed­mon­ton three years ago. Rankin was an ACAA first-team all-star in 2015 and was a CCAA All-Cana­dian last year.

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