The Red Deer Renegades are hoping this weekend will serve as a turning point for the organization, at least for this season.
The Alberta Women’s Major Soccer League team has almost always been among the bottom of the standings. This year they were on pace to do the same with just one draw in five games heading into Saturday against the Edmonton Angels.
But suddenly everything started to click for the Renegades.
They tied the Angels, taking a point off them for the first time in five years, and then crushed the Calgary Cougars FC 4-1 on Sunday while playing with a short bench.
It is the first time head coach Paul Morigeau can remember the Renegades getting at least four points out of a weekend.
“That feeling of not wanting to be beat and wanting to win, I could sense that now for the first time this weekend,” he said.
Michelle Jang scored once for Red Deer in each game while Katrina Szumlas led the way on Sunday with two goals with Kayla Blacquiere getting the other.
The only downside to the weekend is that it was very nearly two wins for the Renegades.
Leading 1-0 with about seven minutes to go on Saturday, the Renegades centre back came back hard to get a loose ball, however it caused a miscommunication with goalie Annie Ulliac and it deflected off her and into the net for an own goal.
“That same player probably stopped two or three goals, there’s nothing you can do, she was just working hard, trying to help,” said Morigeau.
In the past the outcome could very likely have sent the Renegades into a downward spiral, instead they bounced back with their best effort of the year on Sunday while playing with only one sub who wound up getting hurt.
“It was almost like they were a dog off the leash,” said Morigeau. “If the team was a dog, thy would have had their ears up and their tail up and just on the hunt all game long.
“It was very good for our belief. Belief is important for our group, a very young team with different faces from different places. I see all the talent they have and their abilities, but today they believed it.”
Morigeau adds it has been at least a couple of years since the Renegades had an offensive explosion like they had against the Cougars. In the previous six games, they had scored two goals total.
Key to that was the play of Szumlas, an 18-year-old midfielder in her second season with the club.
However, Morigeau was not even sure if he was going to have her available to play on Sunday after getting sucker punched and knocked out on Saturday.
“I really didn’t think she was going to play, I was considering telling her not to because she was quite woozy at the end of the game,” said Morigeau, adding that she was cleared by doctors to play.
Szumlas said there was no way she was going to miss Sunday.
“(Sitting out) wasn’t a thought, I wanted to play, I love playing,” said Szumlas, who is headed to University of Lethbridge next year with Blacquiere. “I was just hoping to have a good game.
“It hasn’t happened in a long time, it feels good to win … Things are definitely shifting and going in a better direction.”
Key to the big weekend was they finally had a full week of practice with the whole team out. With players from Edmonton and Calgary as well as Central Alberta making up the roster, it has been a challenge for them to develop much needed chemistry.
“There was just a really good feeling in training this week and it really did translate nicely into the weekend,” said Morigeau. “If talent doesn’t know where talent is going, it’s not worth much. This weekend we took two big strides (Saturday) and one today.”
The Renegades are off next week, but host Edmonton Northwest United on July 4 at Edgar Athletic Park.