New coach likes look of T-wolves

Steve Simonson was interested in coaching at the university level.

So, when his good friend Alan Alderson resigned as head coach of the UNBC men's soccer team in July for a new job with the Vancouver Whitecaps in London, Ont., it was an opportunity Simonson couldn't pass up.

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Simonson was introduced on Monday as the Timberwolves interim head coach, a role he'll hold onto until the end of the season later this fall. A decision will be made then to hire a permanent replacement.

Simonson was most recently head coach of the Victoria Highlanders FC when the team played in the United Soccer League's Premier Development League from 2012-14. The Highlanders folded in January and the club re-launched this fall but Simonson wasn't part of it.

Simonson spoke with Alderson when he made the decision to leave and had talked to him about UNBC.

"I knew a little about the program and I wanted to see if there was an opportunity to get involved in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport)," said Simonson Friday from Kamloops, where the team is playing a series of exhibition matches. "I asked when the position officially opened to see if there was an opportunity. I talked to the current staff and decided I could really grow with this team going forward. I knew very few of them. I didn't know what to expect. I was only told they were a tremendously good group of guys who are on the rise and in a really good situation."

Simonson flew to Prince George on Monday and met the team in a training session later that day and again on Tuesday.

The Timberwolves traveled to Kamloops on Wednesday and tackled the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack Thursday, a game that ended in a 2-0 loss. Both WolfPack goals were scored late in the match.

Simonson said the first 15 minutes, the Timberwolves appeared awkward, but they rebounded to implement some of the tactics he wanted them to use.

"They were pretty solid on defence and they weren't creating tremendous chances - they were one pass away from a goal," said Simonson, adding the team pushed to score a late goal. "They were disappointed, but I saw a lot of adjustments that they made and that's really positive."

After less than a week with the players, Simonson likes the team that Alderson built over the last three years.

"They're really optimistic and pretty young and only one or two players will graduate next year," said Simonson. "There's a good core of second-year players who've played significant minutes. They're younger players who are open to change and can be molded. They're really good players and in my first week I've felt welcomed by them."

The earlier training sessions also gave him time to figure out who the players were and to see what their best capabilities are, as well as provide them with some ideas he'd like to see them use on the pitch.

The Timberwolves take on Langara today and wrap up Sunday with a match against MacEwan University.

On Monday, they'll drive eight hours to Calgary prior to tackling the University of Calgary that same night. They'll battle Mount Royal on Tuesday before returning home.

The matches have also given Simonson an opportunity to see all 23 of the athletes play.

"I'm getting to know what they can do," he said. "They're a good group of kids who can compete with any level of team on any given day. They will be OK. I'm just trying to give them some different tools. Al has done a fantastic job building this group."

When the team returns to Prince George on Thursday, Simonson, who has a wife and two young kids, will go back to Victoria where he'll tidy up some loose ends. He'd like to be back in Prince George by Sept. 1.

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