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sporls@galew,iv.ii;ibe-rtax.« • luesdiv 18sepleiiil>er. 2007 


SPORTS 


Pandas, turf gang up against UBC field hockey 

Unfamiliar field conditions and an energetic Alberta team kept the defending national champions to a weekend split at Foote Field 



KATE WADE 

WHAT, NO SKATES? Alberta midfielder Erin Mason (left) does her best to keep the ball away from UBC on Sunday. 


ROBIN COLLUM 

Sports Editor 


In most sports, having the home Held 
advantage man ifests itself as a mental 
edge stemming from a friendly crowd, 
a good night's sleep, and familiar 
locker rooms. In the case of the Pandas 
Held hockey team this weekend, how¬ 
ever, it was the field itself that made 
a difference, discomfiting their oppo¬ 
nent and helping them earn a week¬ 
end split against a powerhouse from 
UBC. 

The Alberta took on the defend¬ 
ing national champion Thunderbirds 
at Foote Field on the weekend, win¬ 
ning 2—1 on Saturday but dropping 
Sunday's game 1-0. 

Unlike die other teams in dieir 
conference, the Pandas play on a con¬ 
verted football field rather than a des¬ 
ignated field hockey surface, and the 
difference between the two types of 
artificial turf can have a huge effect on 
the game, 

T-Birds head coach Hash Kanjee 
was blunt in his assessment of the 
field conditions, and admitted that 
the unfamiliar surface affected his 
team's play. 

“It takes away the skill element of 
the game, for both sides," he said. "It's 
slower, and the ball bounces all over 
the place. 

“Satu rday, one of the things that was 
frustrating for me was that this field 
doesn't lend itself to some of the skills 
we practice at home, and it's slower, so 
we didn't get to do some of the things 
that we do on a regular basis. I think 
we're going to have to practice on it a 


few times before we meet the Pandas 
again." 

Though Kanjee wasn’t too happy 
about how the weekend turned out, 
the Pandas were pleased they could 
manage a win on Saturday, even if 
Sunday’s result was less satisfactory. 
The team is fairly young—nearly half 
of this year’s players are in their first 
year—while the T-Birds are returning 
with all but a handful of dieir cham¬ 
pionship-winning side 

"1 told someone at the beginning 
of the weekend: if we could get split 
against UBC. we would be happy," 
Alberta head coach Carla Duncan said. 
"I think when we look back at this 
tomorrow, having a split against the top 
team in die country—and by far, they 
will be the top team in the country 
again—we’re happy. We're ecstatic" 

Tor all Duncan’s fervor, she recog¬ 
nized die holes in her team's perfor¬ 
mances. especially during Sunday’s 
loss. 

"[Saturday] we were much sharper. 
We were technically much better and 
tactically a little more disciplined. We 
were patient, and we took advantage 
of our opportunities when we got 
them," Duncan said. "[Sunday], we 
went a little bit individual. We're really 
a passing team, but we started to carry 
the ball, and we turned the ball over in 
possession." 

On Saturday, the Pandas came back 
from a 1—0 deficit in the first half, 
posting two in the UBC net in the 
second—the first goal from forward 
Jennifer /wicker, and the second off 
a short comer by defender Stephanie 
Madsen. 


On Sunday, however, they couldn't 
pull ofT the same sort of energy after 
the break, and weren't able to regroup 
after Thunderbird Elisa Milosevich's 
goal in the 49th minute 
"Today they just put us under more 
pressure." Duncan said after Sunday's 
game "With their constant pressure, 
we struggled to get the ball out of the 
backfield. They hare some very expe¬ 
rienced players and some very skilled 
players; we have to give credit where 
credit's due" 

Kanjee said he felt that the win was 


a matter of wearing Alberta down in 
the second half rather than a surge 
from his side 

“1 think it’s more a question of 
their falling apart, just like we did on 
Saturday." he said. "I thought, after 
the goal that Alberta got. that we 
went really quiet .and they just gained 
momentum; whereas, today we sort 
of stepped up. and Alberta got quiet." 

In addition to Zwicker and Madsen. 
Alberta leaned on fourth-year mid¬ 
fielder Erin Mason, who was a second- 
team All-Canadian last year. 


"We relied heavily on Erin, and we 
can't afford to do that," Duncan said. 
"[She’s] a fantastic player, but she can’t 
do it all. As a whole, we need to step 
up and be a little bit better." 

Kanjee praised Mason loo. and said 
that her presence on the field was a def¬ 
inite source of concern for his team. 

"We were looking out for Erin," he 
said. "She's a very, very tough little 
hotkey player, and she will give any 
team, either in Canada West or CIS. a 
lot of trouble. She's very talented." 



RLE PHOTO: ZHENDONG U 


LEARNING TO WALK Rookie defensive back Rhys Coppens, who grew up 
watching the Bears play football, is now trying to help them make the playoffs. 


Pressure makes diamonds for new Bear 


marc affeld 

Sports Writer 


For the average first-year student 
coming straight out of high scltool. 
the pressure of university classes, 
homework, and studying can be 
incredibly daunting. Rookie defen¬ 
sive back Rhys Coppens. however, is 
not your average first-year—he also 
has the uncertain future of this year’s 
Golden Bears football team to worry 
about. 

The pressure stems from the fact 
that after the Bears' disappointing 
playoff miss last year, considerable 
attention is being directed towards 
the team’s defence this season, which 
boasts four new starters, including 
Coppens. He doesn't seem overly 
worried about being under the 
microscope, though. 

"It’s kind of nice having the atten¬ 
tion on us." he says. "Especially 
throughout the week and before 
a game, most of the view is on the 
secondary just because we’re so 
young." 

Bears head coach Jerry Friesen is 
pleased with the way Coppens has 
been handling everything. He said 
that Coppens has a positive attitude 
towards the attention the whole 
team—and the defense in particu¬ 
lar—are getting. 

"[He's] competitive, and competi¬ 
tive players enjoy the challenges that 
they have in front of them." he said. 


"He’s rising to the challenges." 

That competitive spirit lias already 
led Coppens. a recent graduate of 
St Francis Xavier high school, to 
considerable success on the field. 
He spent part of his summer help¬ 
ing Team Alberta win a gold medal 
in the 2007 Football Canada Cup 
in Sherbrooke. Quebec, where lie 
was named Defensive Player of tile 
Tournamenl. 

Coppens hasalready begun to prove 
himself as an important addition to 
the Bears" secondary. In his first start 
of the season, he earned himself a 
game-high IS tackles during a 24—22 
loss to the University of Regina Rams. 
Friesen credits Coppens' success on 
the football field primarily to his 
athleticism. 

"He’s a very good athlete all- 
around." says the Alberta bencli 
boss. 

Coppens is also hoping to use his 
athleticism this season to help the 
Bears out on special teams. In the 
first three games of the season, he lias 
returned six kick-offs for an average 
of 24.7 yards per carry. 

An Edmonton native, Coppens 
grew up watching U of A football 
and is comfortable knowing that he 
has friends and family in the seats at 
home games. 

"I like the attention," he says. “It's 
pretty comforting having people in 
the stands no matter what, cheering 
for you.” 


So far. it seems that the Golden 
Bears coaching staff has been suc¬ 
cessful in transitioning ltim from a 
high-school athlete into a university 
football player. 

“They're really good at explaining 
what to da." Coppens says. "As a new 
guy coming in, [Friesen] has been 
really helpful" 

When it comes to fellow players. 
Coppens names veteran defensive 
back Scott Stevenson, who is in his 
last year of CIS eligibility, as a huge 
influence on the field. 

“[Stevenson]'s really good at help¬ 
ing you out. He knows the game 
really well," he says. "If I have any 
questions. 1 go to him." 

Encouragement from fellow team¬ 
mates extends off the field to other 
aspects of Coppens' first-year univer¬ 
sity student life as well, lie says. 

“I’m not necessarily in a lot of their 
classes, but they give you pointers, 
if they catch you hanging around 
SUB too much, they'll tell you to go 
study." 

Witli the outcome of this season 
looking as cloudy as ever, the Bears 
can at least feel confident in the fact 
that Coppens has the potential to be 
an important team leader, even in the 
near future. 

"As lie develops into a more mature 
football player, he'll become a leader," 
Friesen says. "His skill level out on 
the field is of leadership value to us 
right now."