To say the UNBC Timberwolves men's soccer team is young would be an understatement.
Made up entirely of first- and second-year players, most of the T-wolves have yet to celebrate their 20th birthdays and at least a half-dozen of them are not legally allowed in the UNBC pub.
For Cheona Edzerza, that youth movement is not such a bad thing. The homegrown forward is still only 18, yet he's a starter in his second season in the CIS, playing for the youngest team in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association.
"It's great because since we just started in the CIS [in 2012] you get a lot of playing time as a rookie," said Edzerza. "At some schools, you wouldn't get any playing time until fourth or fifth year."
Edzerza has a goal and an assist in 10 games, tied for second in T-wolves scoring, and ranks third on the team with 18 shots on goal. At six-foot-two, he's got the height to get his head above the crowd in goalmouth scrums but he's yet to fill out his lanky frame and sometimes feels the pinch against bigger, older opponents.
"I'm pretty tall and that's good for headers and stuff like that but those guys are pretty big and they're usually fourth- or fifth-year guys," said Edzerza. "I'm not getting pushed around that much, it's getting better."
UNBC has two 17-year-old starters -- midfielder Jake Vickers and forward Tofa Fakunle -- and that youth served them well. Both youngsters scored goals last weekend as the T-wolves
completed their weekend roadtrip with a 2-1 win in Lethbridge and a last-minute 2-1 loss in Calgary.
That left the T-wolves (2-6-2) still in the hunt for a playoff spot with the Fraser Valley Cascades (4-7-1) and the Trinity Western University Spartans (3-6-1), who they will play in Langley tonight (7 p.m.) and Saturday night. If the T-wolves win both games and can somehow manage to beat Victoria twice at home next weekend they're in the playoffs.
"We're feeling pretty good and we're looking forward to playing Trinity," said T-wolves 19-year-old goalie Ty Venhola, a native of Abbotsford, who splits the netminding duties equally with Mitch Macfarlane. "We played two good games and I actually thought we played better against Calgary. We generated a lot of chances and played very well defensively and made good decisions to attack them but they got a late goal."
UNBC centre midfielder Tyson Hunter, 19, who grew up in Langley, says his team has remained upbeat even though wins have been few and far between. Their only other win this season came Sept. 20 against Winnipeg, right after the T-wolves tied third-ranked Alberta at North Cariboo Field.
"We're all positive because our destiny is still in our own hands," said Hunter. "It's such a young program and we know it's only going to get better in the years to come. We're still focused on this year and we still feel we should make playoffs."
In practice this week T-wolves head coach Alan Alderson has been trying to improve his team's transition game, which he figures will be the key to victory this weekend.
"I'm pretty happy with our progress. We've come a long way this season and we're learning fast with a young team and we're closing the gap on a lot of teams. Last weekend I wanted to see us play with heart and soul and passion and we did that. We showed a lot of character. We're hoping for some special things this weekend."