After making it to the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association league finals last season, the St. Thomas University soccer teams have much to live up to.
The men’s team is coming off an impeccable bounce-back season, improving to a 7-2-3 record after winning nothing but a single game the previous year, finishing second in the ACAA.
They fell to Holland College in the league finals, still good enough to earn a spot in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Nationals – their first appearance in 18 years.
The women’s team made a noteworthy run of their own, finishing their regular season undefeated before an upset in the ACAA finals to the Mount Saint Vincent University Mystics. This year, the two programs are led by an ACAA coach of the year, John-Ryan Morrison and Michelle DeCourcey.
Morrison made it clear he expects to see his squad back in the finals this upcoming season.
“My expectations are that we compete in every game, impose our system of play on other teams and be in the ACAA final,” Morrison said.
Morrison’s had a brief look at this year’s team throughout training camp and exhibition games. He believes they are on track and ready for the regular season.
“I think we have had a good preseason including a tough trip to Montreal, in which we came away with points from every game … we are ready to get going.”
This year’s team will feature multiple returning star players, such as second team all-star defenders James Hill and Eric Prior. John Hunter and Kyle Yearwood, first team all-stars, will also make a return for the 2019-20 season. Yearwood was also named to the CCAA all-Canadian team.
Morrison has brought in six new recruits. He believes they will make an immediate impact along with his veteran players.
“That is the only way we will be successful,” he said.
Morrison’s recruits contain Brett Springer, a first-year striker who gives them another offensive option.
“We have always been strong defensively for a couple of years and I think we now have the attacking options to compete at both ends of the pitch.”
The women’s team will enter this season with motivation to get back on top after a shocking upset in the ACAA finals.
Third-year midfielder and reigning ACAA Player of the Year Nikita McCartney said the loss will not change how the Tommies play their game this year.
“The last few years the team has been very inclusive and everyone has meshed very well together. This year is no different.”
The Tommies went undefeated in their regular season, while also gaining numerous personal achievements among their star-studded roster.
Victoria Muise, Kaleigh Roberts and Jessica McWilliams were all named to the second team All-Conference. Leandra Upton, Louisa Hughes and Nikita McCartney all earned spots on the first team, while McCartney was named ACAA Player of the Year and was a CCAA All-Canadian. All six of these players will make a return to the Tommies this season, setting the bar high to expand on their previous success.
McCartney said the team has worked hard over the summer to get back to Nationals.
“We know the competition will be difficult … all of the girls have been putting in a lot of work over preseason and we’re ready to go.
“I think this year will be another great year for STU women’s soccer.”
Athletic Director Mike Eagles is looking forward to the upcoming season.
“We’re really pleased with the direction [DeCourcey] and [Morrison] have taken the women’s and men’s team,” Eagles said.
“Hopefully we’ll be competitive again and get back to the finals … if things work out, we can win championships.”