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UNBC soccer seasons cancelled by Canada West citing COVID-19 concerns

There will be no regular-season, playoff or championship games
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UNBC Timberwolves' women's soccer at Masich Place Stadium against the UBC-Okanagan Heat. (via Jess Fedigan)

The entire UNBC Timberwolves' 2020 soccer season has officially been cancelled.

This comes based on a decision made by Canada West, the conference UNBC competes in for collegiate sports as no competition is set to take place, including regular-season, playoff or championship games.

Canada West joins Ontario and Atlantic university sport associations to cancel all first-term schedules.

"It's heartbreaking, it's never an easy thing to tell student-athletes that their season has been cancelled," said UNBC Athletics Director Loralyn Murdoch in a virtual news conference this morning (June 8) as the decision was ultimately ratified by a vote of 17 schools in Canada West.

"The health and safety of those student-athletes and of all the staff involved was first and foremost and how things stand right now with the COVID-19 and provincial health organizations and the recommendations, we just couldn't see a way to get those sports going in terms of contact, we can't keep them two metres apart."

She adds the school has to respect the provincial health officer's orders at this point in time.

"We owe it to our student-athletes to make some decisions now so they can plan their summers and their falls and we can get some high-performance training plans in place."

Prior to today's announcement, UNBC soccer had announced seven off-season recruits for the 2020 season, six women and Connor Lewis of the men's team.

When asked by PrinceGeorgeMatters, Women's Head Coach Neil Sedgwick says he was on a call with about a dozen of his 32 current players about the 2020 cancellation, a number of them being first-year rookies, and says they were very disappointed.

"They're looking for some direction from us, as they have been through the recruiting process. They'd love to get out and play, but they know the reality. So it's important for us to keep them engaged through the rest of the summer and then, as we move into the school year, to ensure sure they get the support they need moving through the fall and then we'll see what happens in January."

With under 30 players on his roster, Men's Soccer Coach Steve Simonson claims the new challenge is creating a team bond while distancing and finding each person's sense of belonging.

"I think if we handle this right, it'll be galvanizing for the programs and for our kids. We've already asked them to turn to not just their coaching staff and the athletic department for help, but to turn to each other for help and make sure we're reaching out so that all the first-years feel welcome and that they're supported."

As part of Canada West's decision, the cancellation will not affect scholarships, allowing players to keep the financial aid that comes with it.

While she says no one will lose their eligibility, Murdoch explains the commitment to train and be part of the Timberwolves as a whole is expected in addition to other key requirements.

"There are some academic components to that as well. In order to be eligible, they do have to be taking three courses each semester [...] if some students, in their decision-making process, weighed that they'd like to take the year off, then they would not be eligible for scholarships."

As for T-Wolves' basketball, the conference says there'll be no games prior to Jan. 1, 2021.

A decision is expected to be made on Oct. 8 if any games would be played in the second term of the new season.