Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The importance of the centre back position to a soccer team's success can't be understated.
Tasked with holding the best strikers in the conference at bay in the centre of the defence, they need to have speed, vision, power and precision.
That makes the latest recruits for the MacEwan Griffins women's soccer team an integral additions to the team's fortunes moving forward.
Head coach Dean Cordeiro on Thursday announced that centre back Rachel Cooper of Airdrie will be joining the Griffins for the 2018 Canada West season.
Cooper comes to the Griffins out of the Calgary REX (Regional Excellence) program and also plays club for the Calgary Blizzard, which is MacEwan assistant coach Diogo Raposo's squad.
Her elite speed will be a boon to the Griffins – Cooper was third in both the 100m and 200m in the 2016 Calgary city high school track championships, running a PB of 12.89 seconds in the 100.
"She's been a top-end athlete her whole youth career," said Cordeiro. "She's coming back from a knee injury, but she's recently been cleared and will have a whole summer ahead of her to prep and get ready.
"This is one of the top kids out of the whole Calgary area, especially at the centre back position," he added. "She's extremely pacey, has great vision and likes to distribute out of the back. She's versatile as well, can play a little bit of fullback and give us some other options.
"Rachel's been on our radar the last few years and I'm very excited she chose to come to MacEwan."
Cooper adds to a back line that was among the stingiest in Canada West, leading the Griffins to a fourth-place finish last season, even though they didn't have a lot of depth behind centre back starters Jamie Erickson and Samantha Gouveia. The team is also losing graduating fullback Kristen Skrundz, so adding more quality defenders can only help.
"Jamie and Sammy have been absolutely fantastic for us back there, but really after that we're a little bit thin, other than moving people out of position," said Cordeiro. "Truthfully, Sammy is a central midfield player that we've converted to centre back, so it just adds to our talent pool and gives us more flexibility and more options.
"Maybe with the emergence of some of these girls it will allow us to move Sammy back into midfield or give us some flexibility."