Call it baptism by fire.
The Red Deer Renegades entered their regular-season openers at Edgar Park during the weekend with a roster chock full of first-year Alberta Major Women’s Soccer League players. Considering the first two teams on the Renegades’ slate are perennial league powerhouses, the results were predictable.
The Red Deer squad was also short-handed. Missing in Saturday’s 10-0 loss to Edmonton Northwest United were five starters, including key veterans Paula Dadensky and Adi Moyer. Dadensky, out with a concussion, was the league’s second leading scorer last season, while Moyer, who is nursing a foot injury, is one of the top defensive players in the province.
Combined with the fact many of the players didn’t know each other, it made for a difficult weekend.
“I knew things weren’t going to go that well in the first game when our two centre backs were introducing themselves to each other,” Renegades head coach Paul Morigeau said Sunday, following a 7-0 loss to the Calgary Callies.
“But I thought we got better each half this weekend. We had to play the best team in Edmonton and then the best team in Calgary in our first two games. Today we had about 90 per cent of our team and lot of them were playing their first game at this level,”
While the Renegades failed to hit the scoresheet in either match, Morigeau did like his team’s energy level and willingness to improve.
“They did get better as the games progressed and today for sure we created a lot of good offensive opportunities,” he said. “We’re just not quite there that way. Having Paula here would have really helped. She probably would have put two or three in today based on what we created.
“I always knew this was going to be a tough weekend and we had to prepare the girls for that. But they’re gamers.”
The coach is confident his rookie-laden team will continue to improve and get to the respectable level achieved last season.
“I believe we have the potential to be much better,” he said. “There’s really two levels in this league — you have the Callies and the Edmonton teams and then everyone else.
“Last year we kind of rose above everyone else, but not quite to the next level. I hope we can at least maintain that mid-level this year. We’ll work on it and it will take a lot of work. There are no shortcuts.”
Brenna Crockett led the Callies with three goals Sunday afternoon. Netting singles were Piper Lunan, Ranee Premji, Jordan Smith and Breanne Vernon, while Kristen Barton posted the shutout.
The Renegades return to action June 7 against host Edmonton Victoria, then take on Calgary Foothills the following day at Edgar Park.
Morigeau is hopeful that Dadensky and Moyer will be available for the two games.