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 two recruits for the MacEwan Griffins women's soccer team integral additions to the team's fortunes moving forward.
Head coach Dean Cordeiro on Thursday announced that centre backs Rachel Cooper of Airdrie and Mya Fraser of North Vancouver will be joining the Griffins for the 2018 Canada West season.
"Centre back's been a position that we've been lacking in depth, and I think with these recruits we're bringing in now, it's going to remedy that situation, which is exciting," said Cordeiro. "We feel as freshmen these two are going to be competing straight away.
"They are also excellent students with great character, which is what we're looking for in our program."
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."
Fraser, meanwhile, has been involved with the B.C. provincial program the past five years and has captained her club team Mountain United to several first-place finishes in the B.C. Soccer Premier League.
"She's been a dominant centre back in the B.C. high performance league for the last few years – a starter on a quality side – so we're really looking forward to Mya adding another piece to the puzzle for us," said Cordeiro. "Mya fits our playing style very nicely. She is super athletic, looks to play out of the back, is dominant in the air, and a great 1 v 1 defender. We're really excited about Mya."
Fraser felt MacEwan was a great fit as she fulfills a dream of playing post-secondary soccer. She has a passion for the game that should help the Griffins immediately.
"Winning headers and tackles is my favourite part," she said in an e-mail. "I'm good at reading the play and decision making. I'm a very tenacious player, I play with a lot of heart and desire to win."
That's a theme of Cordeiro's promising 2018 recruiting class, which already includes several top talents from all over Western Canada and the U.S.
Both Cooper and Fraser add 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."