Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference set to kick off soccer season without RRC this fall

By: Riley Malinowski

Although the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference (MCAC) intends to play their men’s and women’s soccer seasons this fall, no RRC Rebels will be taking the field anytime soon.  

The MCAC detailed new requirements last month for league play in their “Return to Play Framework” guidelines.

All provincial and municipal health restrictions around travel must be met for the league to operate this year. Social distancing must also be respected where possible.

Last month, Red River College officially pulled the plug on varsity sports for the year, days before U Sport, the governing body of Canadian university sports, did the same.

Rebels women’s soccer coach Doug Lawrie, says the decision to withdraw RRC sports teams from league-play this year is a cost-cutting measure more than a health and safety one.

“No one should be surprised by the college’s decision here,” said Lawrie.

“There are colleges and universities all over the country cancelling varsity athletics in the upcoming athletic year due to the financial implications of COVID-19 on budgets everywhere.”

Rebels defender Kezia Balzer said she heard “rumblings” that RRC would axe varsity sports prior to the official announcement, and said it would be a dream come true if the decision was reversed.

“What makes it so frustrating is we might be able to play safely even with the virus but with sports being cut because of money makes it is a little more devastating,” said Balzer, who is enrolled in the Nursing program at RRC.

The school’s decision is a jarring kick in the teeth for Lawrie, who said he expected the women’s soccer team to improve on last year’s 6-2-2 season.

“The irony of this unfortunate turn of events is that this year we would have seen our strongest cohort of returning players in our history,” said Lawrie.

Balzer echoed the expectations of her coach, saying she believed the team got consistently stronger as the season went on last year and were primed to continue that upward trend in the fall.

“The prospect of being able to go into the season with a group that came so close last year was exciting, we were really hopeful to build off of what we did last season,” said Balzer.

Balzer says she will continue to train with a small group of her Rebels teammates throughout the summer.

“I’ve been trying to get out to fields as much as possible, I don’t want to lose what I’ve built up,” said the 20-year-old.

Lawrie says he doesn’t expect his contract to be renewed for at least the upcoming season but expects Balzer, who will have one more year of eligibility remaining after this season, to lead what could be a very young and inexperienced women’s soccer team in 2021.

“The short duration of the majority of our academic programs at RRC means all of the varsity teams will basically have to be rebuilt from the ground up,” said Lawrie.

The MCAC will release a fall schedule for both the men’s and women’s soccer leagues in the near future.