What's old is new again for the TRU WolfPack men's soccer team - and what's old appears to be pretty darn good.
The WolfPack is getting ready for the Pacific Western Athletic Association season, which it opens Saturday, 3:15 p.m., against the Capilano Blues at Hillside Stadium. TRU has decided to move its soccer teams into the CIS in 2014, making this their final season in the Pacific Western conference, which is based solely in B.C.
The WolfPack men would love to end their tenure in the college league with a solid performance after taking bronze in 2012. The return of Braeden Burrows and Justin Wallace - two stars who started their careers at TRU - certainly will help.
"Both of them are quality players," said WolfPack co-head coach Sean Wallace, the father of Justin. "Those guys, along with some of our older players, are definitely going to lead us."
Burrows, a Sa-Hali grad, started with the WolfPack in 2009, and has played three seasons in black and orange. An injury forced him out of the lineup for all of 2012, but he's healthy and eager to play again this season. Usually a midfielder, Burrows will anchor the back line alongside Nolan Wallace, another of Sean's sons.
Justin Wallace, meanwhile, last played for the WolfPack in 2010, winning the conference's rookie-of-the-year award. The forward from Sa-Hali moved up to the NCAA DIvision II Simon Fraser Clan, winning his conference's newcomer-of-the-year award in 2011 and helping the Clan to the national Final Four in 2012.
"We're very optimistic, especially with a couple of big (names) coming back, Justin Wallace and Braeden Burrows," said goalkeeper Travis Froehlich. "The sky's the limit this year."
The pair fills out what looks to be a solid roster, backed by TRU's starting - and only - goalkeeper. Froehlich, now in his third season, helped the WolfPack to a 7-4-3 record in 2012 and followed up by leading the Penticton Pinnacles to the Pacific Coast Soccer League Reserve Division title this summer.
Midfielder Seb Gardner is the only fifth-year player on the WolfPack roster, which features 12 players in either their third or fourth seasons.
"We have experience and we have a lot of veterans," said Sean Wallace, whose co-coach is John Antulov. "When you've got a core group of third- and fourth-year players, I think you're there. We've seen it in the past few years, (Vancouver Island University) had a very veteran-laden team and did really well, going to nationals three times.
"We've cultivated our talent over the years and we're hoping it pays off this year."
Kyle Fertile, fourth-year midfielder out of Sa-Hali, had only scored two goals in his previous three seasons, but had a breakout summer with the PCSL's Kamloops Heat, with which he scored eight goals.
"I don't know if we want to call him a late bloomer," Sean Wallace said. "He's coming into his own, he's a little more mature and he's developed his game some more. . . . He showed what he can do this summer."
The WolfPack has the talent, but one thing that sets it apart from the rest of the league, according to the players, is its closeness. The majority of these players have been running alongside one another for years.
"We've got a lot of guys who have been here for three or four years," said Froehlich, a Revelstoke native. "And I think we have three or four rookies this year, and we've made them part of the family.
"We're a really close team."
FREE KICKS: TRU, whose regular season will be 14 games, also is scheduled to play the VIU Mariners on Sunday, 2 p.m., at Hillside Stadium. . . . Since 2000, the WolfPack has four medals - one gold, two silver and one bronze - at the provincial tournament. . . . Since Antulov and Wallace joined forces, the WolfPack is 39-19-19. . . . Of the WolfPack's 23 players, eight are from Kamloops. . . . Wayne Girodat and former TRU player Adam Dodgson are assistant coaches, with Allan Connor, another WolfPack alumnus, the team's 'keepers coach.