Women’s soccer season preview

Storylines to watch for in the 2023 season

The 2023 Bisons women’s soccer regular season kicks off this Saturday, Aug. 26 in Calgary, Alta. The herd’s first game will be against the University of Calgary Dinos before the team heads to Lethbridge, Alta. to play the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns Sunday, Aug. 27.

The following weekend will see the herd play back-to-back days at IG Field, with the home opener against the University of Alberta Pandas on Saturday, Sept. 2, followed by a clash with the MacEwan University Griffins the next day.

Here are three storylines to follow during the 2023 season:

Positive trends

Despite the massive player turnover that came with the cancelled 2020 soccer season after going on a deep run in the 2019 playoffs, the Bisons have improved year after year.

The 2021 Bisons held a 6-4-2 regular season record, going 3-1-2 at home and 3-3 away.

The squad just missed the Canada West (CanWest) playoffs, securing the must-win final regular season game against the University of Winnipeg Wesmen 3-1. Unfortunately, the out-of-town scoreboard had the University of Regina Cougars defeating the University of Saskatchewan Huskies 2-1, which bumped the herd out of the playoffs.

However, last year’s 2022 campaign saw the Bisons make the playoffs, finishing the regular season with a 7-7-1 record and finding most wins on the road. The team won away games 5-2, compared to its 2-5-1 record at home.

The Bisons would go on to host their first-ever playoff game at IG Field, just losing the CanWest play-in game 2-1 against the Regina Cougars.

Although the Bisons have had a rough 2023 pre-season, their sole win coming against the MacEwan Griffins on Aug. 5, pre-seasons have never been a true reflection of the team’s caliber.

Last year, the Bisons only won two of their eight pre-season games, yet still made the playoffs for the historic home field game in October.

Hometown hero

2022-23 female Student-Athlete Leadership and Community Development Award winner and women’s soccer captain Jessica Tsai may soon see herself in the Bisons’ record books.

In her last three seasons with the Bisons, the Winnipegger has been one of the top three team leaders in goals and assists. She finished second overall in goals in her 2019 rookie season and third in 2021 and 2022. Tsai also finished first in assists in 2019 and 2021 and third in 2022.

Heading into the 2023 season, the midfielder is on the cusp of breaking two Bisons women’s soccer program records, having registered 72 shots on goal and 19 assists. Desiree Scott has held the title for most assists with 31 since 2009, and Alison Kastner has held the title for most shots on goal with 87 since 2012.

Tsai only needs 12 more assists and 15 more shots on goal to tie the Bisons program records, and has two more seasons of eligibility to break them, including the 2023 season.

Bisons to watch for

Tsai is not the only Bison on the team with staggering stats. Veteran goalkeeper Karina Bagi continues to impress, lowering her goals against average over the last three seasons to an astounding 1.01 in 2022.

Bisons forward and Winnipeg native Jenna Kunkel has been near the top of the Bisons stats list over the past few seasons, finishing second overall in both goals and assists in 2021 and 2022.

There are also 11 rookies on the roster this year for Bisons soccer fans to look out for, with six hailing from Winnipeg.

The team is once again helmed by stellar head coach Vanessa Martinez Lagunas. Martinez Lagunas has led the team since the 2013 season, coaching the herd to six post-season appearances.