Alderson says goodbye to UNBC men's soccer team

For once, the score didn't really matter.

On Saturday, as the sun shone on the North Cariboo Senior Soccer League fields with the backdrop of UNBC towering up above on Cranbrook Hill, Alan Alderson gathered around a group of current and former players he's known for the last three years for one final message.

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The outgoing head coach of the men's soccer squad encouraged the Timberwolves to live more and go after their full potential; to do everything they can to foster a better team environment so they can hopefully look back after their career is over and say they were a fantastic teammate.

And finally, to go out, have fun and make some magic this season.

And then he told them he loved them.

With that, Alderson had officially wrapped up his coaching duties with the team and later accepted well wishes and hugs from parents and fans.

He announced last week he's leaving the UNBC men's soccer side for southern Ontario to take on the head coaching position with the London Youth Academy Centre, the latest Vancouver Whitecaps FC program in London, Ont.

"It's tough to leave," Alderson said afterwards as he wiped away tears. "I definitely wanted to be here for the alumni game. I know all of them and I wanted to see a couple of the recruits play today. I've seen the program come of age. It's a great group of people and students."

Alderson cleaned out his office at the Northern Sport Centre Monday and was later set to hit the road east toward Ontario and a job opportunity he said he's "looking forward to that will be awesome."

Meanwhile, the side he's been in charge of and that he helped build from the ground up since the school entered the Canada West conference of Canadian Interuniversity Sport is getting ready to travel for a series of matches in Kamloops and Calgary in advance of the 2015 season.

It's a season that's full of promise say a couple of team veterans, striker Tofa Fakunle and goalkeeper Ty Venhola, whom Alderson called personally when he made the decision last month to leave the team, a move that surprised them.

"I'm really happy for him and the new coach (Steve Simonson) should be good," said Venhola, who's entering his fourth year as a human resources student. "I'm looking forward to the season with the guys and we're a lot more experienced. We've come together as a team and we have a good shot at the playoffs if we work together and make plays."

Venhola, recruited by Alderson out of Abbotsford three years ago, spent the summer in the Lower Mainland playing in the Pacific Coast Soccer League comprised of university of college players. He returned to Prince George on Aug. 11 to resume training with the T-wolves.

Fakunle, a third-year striker from Calgary, spent his summer suiting up for Calgary Foothills FC, an under-23 team that competes in the Premier Development League. He arrived in town Aug. 9 and is confident the Timberwolves can improve on their 2014 campaign, their most successful season in Canada West with a 3-9 record in the Pacific Division, which also included their first six-point weekend.

"I believe in every single one of them and we're ready to succeed," said Fakunle, a psychology major and another of Alderson's star recruits. "Al is a tremendous coach and we're sad to see him go. We love him and we appreciate him. This team is OK and we're at the right place to make some magic."

UNBC will have eight new players on its roster for 2015 - Liam Stewart, Johnathan Botelho, Greg Meconse, Arshdeep Mutti, Mo Abdalla, Jesse Rake, Alex Nielson and Rodney Wheatcroft.

The Timberwolves are in Kamloops later this week for a series of friendly matches against Thompson Rivers, MacEwan and Trinity Western. They'll then head to Calgary to battle Mount Royal and the University of Calgary.

UNBC opens its season on Sept. 11 when it tackles the University of Victoria Vikes on Vancouver Island.

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