With the 2018 Canada West season on the horizon, the UNBC Timberwolves soccer teams have added some final pieces to their rosters.
The UNBC men's team announced this week the commitment of winger Pierre Barrafranca, while the women's squad has brought midfielder Jenna Wild into the fold. The UNBC men will open the season on Aug. 24 when they welcome the University of Victoria Vikes to the newly-renovated Masich Place Stadium and the UNBC women will kick things off on Sept. 8 in Kelowna with a match against the UBC Okanagan Heat.
Barrafranca hails from Larmor-Plage, France, and has played for two years in the United States, first with ASA College in Miami and then with Richland College in Dallas. Barrafranca decided to play for the Timberwolves after a conversation with head coach Steve Simonson and has been in attendance at a preseason training camp this week.
"When I started talking to Steve, he was interested in my profile," Barrafranca said. "We talked on the phone, and the feeling was very good. We talked about soccer, and I really liked his way of looking at the game. After the call, I decided to come here."
The 20-year-old Barrafranca had three goals and three assists with Richland College last season. Speed and relentlessness are important parts of his game.
"We are hoping to improve the attacking element of our game, and we expect Pierre to play a part in that," Simonson said. "He is dynamic and confident and he loves the game. That love for soccer is why he is already proving to be a great fit with our team and environment."
Barrafranca plans to study business while at UNBC.
Wild, meanwhile, is a product of Victoria and played youth soccer with several current members of the female Timberwolves. She has also been coached previously by UNBC's Neil Sedgwick and jumped at the opportunity to come north to play the game at the Canada West level.
"It means a lot," said the 20-year-old Wild, who is known for her playmaking skills. "I didn't know I would be up here at this time but I am really excited to have this opportunity - to be able to train with these girls and with Neil.
"I have heard it's a really good program, and obviously with Neil up here, that was huge for me," added Wild, who has been a student but not a player at the University of Victoria for the past two years. "When I was playing youth, it wasn't about wins, it was about developing as players. I think he carries a lot of that to this team. I have a lot to grow in, so I felt really confident coming here."
In Sedgwick's view, two of Wild's best qualities are her ability to read the game and then to make strong decisions with the ball.
"Jenna brings tremendous maturity and energy to our program," said Sedgwick, who has been working with Wild at training camp this week. "She has a very high soccer intelligence and it allows her to find key spaces on the field that help us attack defenses. We are thrilled to have her."
Wild's natural passion for the game has been helping her make up for her two-year absence from competitive soccer.
"I have a good work ethic and I try to raise the level of work ethic around me," she said. "I have good ball control, and I hope to see the field. I am super excited to learn a lot and work really hard."
Wild is a 2016 graduate of Pacific Christian School. At UNBC, she will continue working toward a bachelor of arts degree.