Royals’ coach Chris Laxton takes a moment to reflect upon his team’s early success
By Davie Wong, Sports Reporter
For head coach Chris Laxton and the players of the women’s soccer team, the past month has been all but a blur. Coming into September, nobody could have predicted that the Royals’ team, which finished third in the PACWEST last year, would end the month with a firm grasp on first place. Nonetheless, that is where they sit, holding a record of 7-2-2 and a three-point lead ahead of the closest team to them.
Laxton has been pleased to date: “I think the season has gone well … We had a good start, which is always reassuring when you can set the pace.” And set the pace they have.
The girls have dropped 2 of their last 11 and have only been shut out twice (one being a scoreless draw) this season. They have yet to tie a game. Throughout the season so far, the Royals have found the back of the net 22 times while allowing only eight goals against. They currently have an impressive six clean sheets.
While Laxton credits the team’s success to every player on the team he also recognizes that strong leadership from his veteran players has been a huge factor this year. “Tiffany O’Krane and Kelsey Acaster are the two captains and they’re phenomenal. They lead a leadership group which is very strong… I think they set the tone for the newer players. I’ve got a good core of players and I owe that all to that have been here before my time.”
There were a few standout players that he noted as large parts of driving the team forward. “Marni [McMillan] has been fantastic. [She has] 7 goals in 11 games and has created many of the other ones that we’ve scored. Danae [Harding] finds the back of the net often (5 goals in 11 games). They are the obvious ones. Nicolle Fraser is always a strong performer for us (2 goals in 11 games) and is real integral to what we do. I think ones that would get overlooked would be ones like Kelsey Acaster, who is such a good leader at the back… She’s been a part of most of our clean sheets. And I think Rebecca [Mainardi]… has had a very good year… This year she’s been much more consistent.”
Laxton also believes his staff has been an integral part of where the team is today. He noted that his assistant coach, Rae Pelat, has been more confident with the team and that goalkeeper coach Richard Meister has helped the keepers vastly improve their consistency. But the newest addition to the staff has been arguably the biggest game-changer. During the offseason, Laxton added Leanne Fielding, a mental performance consultant, to his support staff to help with the mental side of the game. He believes that having Leanne’s help, “has added a whole new element that is too often overlooked and neglected.”
Moving forward, Laxton is looking to fine-tune the team in preparation for the playoffs. It is evident that he has the team moving in the right direction, but Laxton believes that there is a lot to work on before the team is ready for a playoff run. The key according to Laxton is, “making sure we have the right combinations for every scenario so we have the best idea of how we are going to play and what we need to do to be successful.”
After their start to the year, many have already begun predicting that this Royals’ squad will make it all the way to Nationals. While Laxton believes that his team has a real shot at getting to Nationals, he emphasized the importance of staying focused on what is directly in front of them. “We have to worry about getting out of BC first, which is always tough.”
Though they have found great success in the first half of the season, Laxton believes that his team still has more potential that has yet to be unlocked. “There are always things to improve upon… We’re trying to peak at the end of October [for the playoffs].” He believes that the early losses that his team experienced have been great lessons to help them learn.
Be sure to follow the team closely as they move towards securing a place in the provincial playoffs and possibly much more.