The UNBC Timberwolves want to play more than 14 games. If they meet that objective, it will mean they have qualified for playoffs as a first-year member of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association.
For the UNBC men's soccer team, life at the highest of levels starts Friday night in Victoria with a contest against the University of Victoria Vikes, who happen to be the defending Canadian Interuniversity Sport champions. The Timberwolves and Vikes will also clash on Saturday.
Tough way to start, but there will be no easy games for a UNBC squad that is stepping up to Canada West from the B.C. college league.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, Timberwolves head coach Alan Alderson isn't about to concede points to his team's opponents.
"We want to go after finding out how good we really are," said Alderson, hired as UNBC's sideline boss in May. "If we go after it in that way, then we want to try and make ourselves a playoff spot. And in Canada West, if you make a playoff spot you're a couple of wins away from being in the national championship. Sport is crazy and we want to see if this group of guys can make something special happen this season."
The Timberwolves are in the five-team Pacific Division and will need a top-three finish to qualify for playoffs. The Vikes are one of their division rivals and the others are the UBC Thunderbirds, University of the Fraser Valley Cascades and Trinity Western University Spartans.
Alderson spent a total of 17 years as head coach of the Trinity Western men and took them from the B.C. college level to Canada West in 2001. The team's record that year was an impressive 4-6-2.
For the Timberwolves to do something similar, they'll need their stars to perform like stars and for their supporting cast to play nearly perfect soccer. Two of the marquee individuals on the 22-man roster are midfielders Sourosh Amani and Tyson Hunter, who developed terrific chemistry during a pre-season that saw UNBC post a 2-2 record. In those games -- one of which was a 4-3 loss to the Vikes -- UNBC scored seven goals and Amani played a part in all of them.
"They are pretty to watch," Alderson said. "They can do some very special things so that makes it exciting right away. If you add to that the work rate and heart and passion of Danny Dell up front, all of a sudden you're in a position where you've got some pretty important players in key positions who can create some goals."
Dell, a striker and the lone fifth-year team member, said having Amani and Hunter in UNBC uniforms is a huge boost to the club.
"I can't even describe the impact they're going to make," he said. "They're both very strong players and they're going to strengthen our midfield a lot."
Amani grew up in the Netherlands, Hunter is from Langley and Dell hails from Burns Lake. Prince George players on the UNBC roster are Brett Bobier, Jared Dillabaugh, Cheona Edzerza, Harjas Grewal, Ahmed Hamour, Nikola Knezevic, Robby Panaich,Chandandeep Sangha, Andrew Seabrook, Kellen Strobl and goalkeepers Mitch McFarlane and Jon Richards.
Strong goalkeeping is always vital, and the T-wolves appear to be set in that position. McFarlane, Richards and Abbotsford's Ty Venhola split the duties evenly in the pre-season and left Alderson wondering which one of them would be his No. 1 stopper.
Dell, 25, had this to say about the team's goaltending situation: "It's the first time in our history, pretty much, that we've had options in there."
Dell can't wait to set foot on the pitch in Victoria and sees no reason why the Timberwolves can't give the Vikes a tough test.
"We played them in pre-season and came out really good," he said. "I think everyone's just ready to play. We're excited to start and to get this start against the national champions."
Both the Friday and Saturday games will kick off at 7:15 p.m.
n Sonny Pawar, last season's UNBC head coach, is one of Alderson's assistants this season. Brad Stewart, an assistant in 2011, is back in that role again, while former UNBC goalkeeper Kyle Flannagan is also on the coaching staff.
The UNBC women's soccer team makes its Canada West debut Saturday in Winnipeg against the University of Winnipeg Wesmen.
See Friday's Citizen for a preview story.