Tom McManus, head coach of the TRU WolfPack women's soccer team, loves competition.
He certainly is getting it this week, with the WolfPack starting training camp at Hillside Stadium.
TRU, the two-time defending Pacific Western Athletic Association champion, hit the pitch for fitness testing Monday morning, before a scrimmage last night. The team will be on the field for all but three days until the end of the month, before exhibition matches with the visiting UNBC Timberwolves on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
McManus loves to put his players through the paces in camp, making sure they are in the best possible shape when the season kicks off. And he always brings in a lot of bodies - in this case, there are 36 women competing for 25 roster spots. Only 18 players can dress for each league game.
"It's an open competition and I re-emphasized that with all the veterans," McManus said. "I said, 'Every position is open, so look beside you and look behind you - they want your job.' "
TRU is scheduled to open its last season in this league on Sept. 7, when the Capilano Blues visit Hillside Stadium. The WolfPack has declared that it will move into the CIS, Canada's top university league, in 2014.
While that has McManus excited about the team's future, it didn't change his approach during the offseason. He loaded up on the best players he could recruit, some of them right out of the Kamloops Youth Soccer Association.
"I have five (KYSA recruits) this year, and five last year," said McManus, who is coming to the end of a seven-year stretch as the KYSA's technical director. "I'm looking at them, and I'm looking at the ones I know can do it, because I've worked with them for the last number of years."
One of the local recruits is Shalayna Isakson, whose arrival has created a little more competition among the goalkeepers.
Starter Emily Edmundson and backup Jamie Wheeler are back from 2012, so Isakson, a Sa-Hali grad, has created a bit of a fight. McManus said he might keep all three 'keepers, depending on how they perform at camp.
"They've all come in, ready to play," McManus continued. "I told them, 'you're all battling for No. 1.' "
Edmundson, the backbone behind the last two provincial championships, isn't guaranteed anything.
"You always feel the competition; your spot is always on the line," said Edmundson, a Valleyview grad who is nursing an ankle injury. "At the same time, you come out, work hard and that hard work will pay off."
There are battles all over, but the WolfPack has returned most of its core from last season.
Blair MacKay, an All-Canadian, graduated, as did twin sisters Abbey and Chloe McAuley. Taylor Miller decided to step away for a year, but the WolfPack still has plenty of depth.
Alanna Bekkering, the league MVP in 2012, is back at midfield.
"We'll see what style we play," McManus said. "I haven't decided yet. I have styles in my mind . . . we've got to go out and play to see what we'll do. Whether I go 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1, I'll wait and see what will suit everyone."
The WolfPack announced Monday that it is partnering with the TRU Alumni office to play host to an alumni event for the WolfPack soccer program.
All former TRU soccer players - including those who played for the Cariboo College Chiefs and Gold Rush, the University College of the Cariboo Sun Demons and the WolfPack - are invited to attend the WolfPack's home-opener set on Sept. 7. The WolfPack women will take on the Blues at 1 p.m., with the men to follow at 3 p.m.
The event is called "UCC/TRU Alumni and Friends Reunion - Celebrating Excellence," and a special VIP section will be set up for alumni, family and friends. There will be a barbecue, award presentations and activities for children of alumni.
Between the matches, the 1998 and 1999 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national championship men's and women's teams will be recognized. The Sun Demons men's team won in 1998, before the women's team won the title in 1999.