As newcomers to the top university athletics league in the country, the UNBC Timberwolves knew they would be in for a season of severe growing pains.
And life in the Canada West conference of Canadian Interuniversity Sport did bring its share of humbling experiences. But, the UNBC women's soccer team actually fared better than predicted and has given itself a base on which to build for the future.
The Timberwolves finished their first Canada West season winless in 12 games and were outscored 71-6. They did manage to secure three ties, commendable considering they went 0-23-1 in their last two seasons in the B.C. college league and netted only one goal in 2011.
"The group had a tough year last year so moving up to the CIS was a challenge," said UNBC head coach Andy Cameron. "But the objective was to improve week by week and I think the fact we got a point early, that helped, and we got a goal early, and that helped. We had little victories along the way so I think that kept everybody motivated and, over the season, there was significant improvement."
The T-wolves picked up a point in their very first game when they battled the University of Winnipeg Wesmen -- a fellow expansion team -- to a 0-0 draw. The UNBC women scored their first goal in their fifth outing, the marker by first-year striker Sidney Roy in a 3-1 home-field loss to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The other two ties for the Timberwolves came against the expansion Mount Royal University Cougars (2-2) and the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns (2-2).
Cameron said the team's most obvious accomplishment this year was scoring the six goals.
"But I think it goes a lot farther than that," he added. "It was the working as a unit to create those chances to score the goals."
The Timberwolves completed their schedule with road games against the Trinity Western University Spartans and UBC Thunderbirds last Friday and Saturday. They lost 7-0 to the Spartans, who are ranked third in Canada, and 13-0 to the seventh-ranked T-birds.
"Certainly it was a tough weekend but I think there were enough positives along the way that the players have sort of put that behind them," Cameron said. "They're already asking me about when indoor starts and when they can start training again. You've got to be pleased with the season but, at the same time, not satisfied. We have a ways to go."
The Timberwolves will resume practices next week and will compete in the city's indoor soccer league this fall and winter.
On the recruiting front, meanwhile, Cameron has already started the task of bolstering the team for next Canada West season. He watched three games in Vancouver on Sunday and said he may go back this weekend to observe a couple more. And, in a couple weeks, he plans to meet with some of the newest graduates of the Prince George Youth Soccer Association.
"It's all starting again," Cameron said. "We'll start winding up for 12 months from now.
"We'll hope to have a few locals and a few other players come in and then build on that," he added. "We look forward to Year 2."
The UNBC men's soccer team will try for its first win in the final weekend of its season. The Timberwolves (0-12) will visit Calgary's Mount Royal University on Saturday and the University of Winnipeg on Sunday. Like UNBC, Mount Royal and Winnipeg are first-year teams in Canada West. They have records of 4-7-1 and 0-9-3 respectively.
Winnipeg had to forfeit a tie against the University of Saskatchewan and two victories against Mount Royal early in the season because of a player eligibility violation.