Heading into their last home weekend of the 2016 CIS Canada West women's soccer season, the UNBC Timberwolves know playoffs are out of the question once again.
That reality set in last weekend when they were officially eliminated from postseason contention with a pair of home-turf losses to Alberta, setbacks which dropped the T-wolves' record to 0-10-0.
It's difficult to put a positive spin on what has been a winless season for UNBC head coach Neil Sedgwick, hired last February to replace Andy Cameron, whose contract was not renewed after four seasons trying to build a competitive university soccer program from scratch.
Now with just four games left, including today's 3:30 p.m. encounter with the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack at North Cariboo Field, the T-wolves in their five-year CIS history have had just three wins to celebrate, compiling a 3-47-10 record over that time.
Results matter, but Sedgwick has no choice but to look beyond his team's win-loss record for signs of progress in his players, and that's not hard for the former head coach of university teams at North Dakota and Southern California.
"This is a difficult time of year developmentally for them because they do have to face the questions from others - for nine months of the year they can develop quietly but this is the time when the media knows about them and their friends and family know that they're playing in games," said Sedgwick.
"This is the difficult part where they have to stay present on the process that they're involved in but I think they've done a great job at that because they continue to grow. I've seen a transformation with a number of individual players and we've had some breakthrough games where they've shown their growth and they've done that against some of the best teams in the country.
"We've really taken it on in the second half of the season to take a stand with one another while we raise our competitive standards. That's been fantastic to watch and will bode well for the next few games as well as into the future because they now know what that feels like. Their willingness to keep the ball and pass the ball and to build through the different areas of the field has been wonderful to see. They've made some errors but that's part of the process. We've taken huge steps this year."
Still it has to hurt, continually losing to long-established teams in the CIS blessed with an abundance of star-quality fourth- and fifth-year players and full rosters.
Winning games has also been a struggle for UNBC's opponents this afternoon, the WolfPack (1-9-0), and this could be the day the T-wolves finally break the goose egg. Their Sunday opponents, the UBC Okanagan Heat (4-6-0) currently occupy the sixth and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. The T-wolves are coming off 3-0 and 1-0 losses to Alberta last weekend.
"I'd like to see continued progress from last week - we made big steps from Saturday to Sunday against Alberta in different areas in attack and defence and in the way we approached the game," said Sedgwick. "I just hope we take that same approach this weekend and over our next four games continue to grow as a group."
With snow flurries a possibility in the forecast, tonight's game time was changed from the original 7:15 to 3:30 p.m.