MEDICINE HAT, AB – Soccer season in Medicine Hat is still a few months away, but the newest face of both the collegiate and minor systems is already putting his stamp on the team.
Last week, the Medicine Hat College Rattlers tabbed Robert Cavicchia as the new head coach of the program’s male and female soccer and futsal teams after months of instability behind the bench.
Over the weekend, the Toronto native made one of his first trips to the ‘Gas City’ to speak with his new players and meet with college staff.
“If they’re working hard, coming in fit, and ready to go, it’s going to help for sure in the pre-season as well as the beginning of the season,” said Cavicchia. “If we’re outworking teams, that’s going to help us win games.”
The hiring of Cavicchia kicks off what the Rattlers are hoping is a new era for their soccer program, which has seen a downturn over the last two years.
MHC’s men’s soccer team missed playoffs for the second time in three years with a 4-7-1 record, while the women’s squad finished the season with the worst record (2-9-1) in the ACAC’s South Division.
Following the season, it was announced previous head coaches Ian Tully and Stephen Newton would not return behind the bench.
Rattlers manager of sport and wellness Terry Ballard said the college wanted to get a new face hired before the summer break.
“The first emotion would be relief that we have somebody this early,” said Ballard. “It’s still May, so we’re really excited to have Robert on the ground here ready to go. That will be a relief I think to the players as well, whether it be the returning players or the new ones that are coming in.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams will be relying on returning faces, with the Rattlers hoping these experienced players will take a step forward in the fall.
The team will continue its recruiting process though, with Cavicchia confident they’ll attract players that fit the team’s mandate.
“Hoping that we’re going to recruit players that will fit into the culture that we look to create,” he said. “Hard-working players, good students, good athletes, good people. I think if we have good people, it’s going to help us definitely move forward and hopefully achieve a playoff spot.”
Along with his role with the Rattlers, the former NCAA Division I player will also be the new executive director of the Medicine Hat Soccer Association to promote growth in the minor ranks.
“I think it’s really appealing because of the fact that I get to work with the youth association as well as the college program,” said Cavicchia. “It’s what I studied for, it’s what I did back home. I worked with the youth club there as well as with the Niagara University Division I team, I would commute back and forth.”
“So, this kind of offered me the opportunity to do both, which I’m really excited about.”
According to Ballard, the goal is to make Medicine Hat College the premier destination for those graduating from the minor soccer system.
And he hopes the transition will be made even more seamlessly with Cavicchia at the helm.
“We anticipate him being here for a while and I think the partnership that we’ve created with Medicine Hat Soccer Association will allow that to happen,” he said. “Working with them has been a pleasure, they believe in the same things as we do. So, I think you’ll see a lot of synergies between the soccer club in town, as well as the soccer program at the college.”
Rattlers promoting female athletics through ACAC championship hosting
More big news for the Rattlers came down last week as well, as the ACAC announced Medicine Hat College would serve as the host site for the 2020 women’s basketball and volleyball championships.
Awarding both events, which happen within a week of each other in February, is rare by ACAC standards.
However, Ballard said he presented the dual-bid as a way to celebrate women’s athletics in Alberta.
“We were going to bid for something and then we just got talking that the two events that we haven’t had were these two,” said Ballard. “We thought if we could get both back-to-back, let’s make this a celebration of women and girls in sport.”
MHC’s women’s basketball team has been a powerhouse in the South Division over the last few years, booking a spot at CCAA nationals in 2018.
It’s a watershed moment for the Rattlers women’s volleyball team though, as it will be their first playoff berth in seven years.
Missing out on the ACAC championship by a tie-breaker last year, Ballard said the team is trending in the right direction.
“They deserve to be in it and I think even if we weren’t hosting, I think they probably would have qualified on their own,” he said. “We’ll see if that comes true, but the bottom line is they’re in and it may help recruiting a little bit.”
Ballard added there’s already plans to include young female athletes from Medicine Hat in the player of the game ceremonies and to seat some of these girls on the benches along the collegiate athletes.
He also said they are going to revamp the annual ACAC awards ceremonies to allow girls from the community to attend.
“One of our plans is to have those awards ceremonies in our theatre right next door, have all the participating teams sit in the bottom of the theatre, and have the top of the theatre filled with 200 or 300 young girls from junior high,” said Ballard.
“So, they can see and look what it’s like to be a female athlete and be a strong female. That’s exciting.”
The 2020 ACAC women’s volleyball championship will take place at Medicine Hat College from February 26 to 29, which will be followed by the women’s basketball tournament from March 4 to 7.
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