UNBC men made 'tremendous improvement' in 2015 season

If there is a way to summarize the UNBC men's soccer season, it might be themed a season of change.

The Timberwolves had to get used to new interim head coach Steve Simonson, who replaced his friend Alan Alderson right before the kick-off to the Canada West exhibition season in mid-August.

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Alderson, who was at the helm the last three seasons, resigned from his head coaching duties to take on a new role with the Vancouver Whitecaps in London, Ont.

The hiring of Simonson, who arrived from Victoria, meant a whole new way of playing for the Timberwolves, who finished with an overall record of 1-10-1 in the Canada West Pacific Division.

After UNBC wrapped up its 2015 campaign with a 5-2 loss Saturday and a 1-1 tie Sunday with the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack of Kamloops, Simonson admitted it was a tough transition.

"I think it was tough for everybody, time-wise," he said. "The season happened so quickly, the games come fast and furious. There's not a lot of developmental time in there so you're basically learning on the fly.

"I did change quite a bit of things on how to play. Does that affect them in the short-term? You can argue it does. In the long run I think it will help them

and think there's no guarantee that we would've been better off if I hadn't changed things."

Simonson said as the T-wolves incorporated those changes, they had some close matches along the way, especially against Trinity Western and the University of the Fraser Valley.

"With the games we had, you look at Trinity Western, we lost 2-1 (on Oct. 17), well, it's the last kick of the game to win 2-1," said Simonson. "We're up 1-nil in that game. We were (tied) 1-1 and had a goal disallowed in the second half. That's easily a draw or a win. Fraser Valley (on Sept. 26) was easily a draw when we lost 1-0 to them. I think there was a lot of change which was difficult for them, but they embraced it and did well for themselves."

In Saturday's contest in Kamloops, the game was tied at 1-1, until the WolfPack scored three goals in a seven-minute span in the second half.

In Sunday's 1-1 draw, the WolfPack's Ryan Glanville scored on a penalty shot in the second half and the Timberwolves responded when Brett Bobier tapped the ball in on a goal-mouth scramble 20 minutes later.

"On Saturday I think it was our third time that we had a little collapse for a short period, like seven or eight minutes where we let in multiple goals and we didn't have the mental strength to deal with what was going wrong," said Simonson. "For big stretches of the game we were playing well for ourselves.

We didn't have that happen to us on Sunday. We played well throughout the game on Sunday. For our guys to come back (after the penalty shot) and respond (with Bobier's goal) and almost win the game, I thought was a real credit to them because those were the moments where they had collapsed before."

The team has the week off and will reconvene next week when Simonson - whose contract ends on Nov. 15 - will do a post-season assessment and player assessments.

He has also put his ideas on paper - which he has done throughout the season - about what the program should look like and the direction it might go.

"And if those are things that everyone thinks are right then we'll move forward with them," he said.

He would love to have the interim tag taken off his role and be hired as the team's permanent coach.

"Now is the time we have to sit down and discuss that and look at that," said Simonson. "The term was until Nov. 15. I'll have to sit down with the school and see if they think I'm the right fit for the job. What I will say is I've enjoyed my time with them and if it makes sense for everybody, I would love to be a part of helping them move forward."

Whether he returns or not, Simonson said he's seen "tremendous improvement" in the players and the team over the course of two months.

"When I look at how the team has tried to play and perform I see tremendous, tremendous improvement in what I want to see," he said. "Does that equate into results right away? No. And to some people, results are all that matters. To me, at that stage, that's not all that matters. I saw incredible growth in them over the year and I'm really, really pleased with what they've done. I'm really proud of the guys. I think there's good things to come with this program and people should be very proud of UNBC."

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