Five years ago, Shelby Beck and Dayle Jeras were fresh-faced Cascades rookies coming off a 3-8 season and part of a team that failed to make the playoffs.
Fast forward to 2015, and the pair are battle-tested veterans seeking Canada West hardware in their final year.
They get a chance to kick off the journey at home on Saturday – the first time in the program’s history that a playoff game has been hosted in Abbotsford.
“It’s a really cool experience,” Beck said, of the home playoff game. “We’ve never done it so being able to do it in our last year is something special and hopefully we’ll make it a memorable one.”
Cascades head coach Rob Giesbrecht arrived at University of the Fraser Valley one year before Jeras and Beck, and that fact was not lost on Jeras.
“We were his first recruiting class and since then the program has changed a lot,” she said. “We’re more of a team and everything is team-focused. We have a definitive culture that has been developed by the leadership in our team.”
“Our first few years were more building years and really the past couple years we’ve developed a lot of cohesion,” Beck said. “The skill level coming in each year keeps getting better and better.”
The pair pointed to newer recruits Monika Levarsky and Gurneet Dhaliwal as two of the many examples of that skill.
Last year’s performance at the nationals remains the top memory for both. The Cascades advanced to the CIS bronze medal game, losing 2-1 to Ottawa to finish the year as the fourth-ranked team in the country.
This year’s path begins against the UVic Vikes, the team that the Cascades beat in the first round in last year’s Canada West playoffs. The teams met twice this year, playing to a tie in both games.
“We need to play our games and key on their players and shut them down,” said Jeras.
“The reason we’ve tied them is that we’ve let our foot off the gas or let them back into the game,” added Beck. “We need a full 90 minutes where we’re the dominant team, and we know we’re ready to do that.”
Giesbrecht said it means a lot to have the opportunity to host a playoff game.
“Usually it’s the traditional powers that are hosting these playoff games so for us to make our way up the ladder means a lot,” he said. “We’re excited and proud to be hosting.”
He said it will be a close game against the Vikes, noting they tied both regular season games last year too. Stopping forward Emma Greig is on the team’s agenda, but Giesbrecht said the entire Vikes team is dangerous.
“We can’t just focus on stopping one player because then the other players will hurt you,” he said. “We need to focus on team defending and make sure we play an assertive style of soccer.”
UFV’s first ever playoff game in Abbotsford goes down on Saturday at 4 p.m. on the Abbotsford Secondary turf field.