The St. Thomas Tommies men’s soccer squad is looking to repeat its success from last year, or perhaps even improve on it.
The Tommies fell one goal short of upsetting the powerhouse Holland College Hurricanes in the 2015 Atlantic Collegiate Athletics championships in Saint John.
It was STU’s first appearance in the league final in eight years.
“We were five minutes away from taking the sixth-ranked team in the country to overtime in the finals,” said Tommies head coach John-Ryan Morrison.
“There’s more pressure on us this year where we caught almost everybody by surprise before.”
Morrison said it isn’t unrealistic to shoot for the top again, but getting there may be easier said than done where this year’s Tommies only have about five returning players from 2015 to field a team in a competitive ACAA conference.
“That’s the ultimate goal – to be in that game and see what happens after that,” said the coach.
Several of the Tommies’ 12 new players already saw game action with the team, which downed the University of Maine Presque Isle Owls 2-1 in its first pre-season exhibition contest Aug. 30 at home.
Morrison said eight of STU’s rookies were in the starting lineup for that game alone.
“So we can’t exactly use the experience we learned last year to take us there,” he said.
“We’re hoping as coaches and as a program to do the same thing we did last year with only five returning players.”
However, Morrison is optimistic when it comes to the Tommies’ chances of at least having another deep playoff run this fall where last year’s team – like this year – had five returning players, as well.
The veteran Tommies this year include captain Gregory Young and Eric Prior, among others.
“We had a couple guys who didn’t play last year and were part of the program a couple years ago,” said Morrison.
“They’ve come back and returned to school, so that maturity can help this very young team.” Some of this year’s recruits are former Barbados national player Kyle Yearwood, John Hunter, Dylan Breau, Kieran Ford and Matt McCarthy – who scored twice against UMPI two weeks ago.
“[McCarthy] is another guy with provincial team experience who will continue the long tradition of Miramichi guys at STU,” said Morrison.
In other pre-season action, the Tommies were blasted 6-0 by the University of Maine Fort Kent Bengals – the defending United States national champions – on Sept. 1.
The team also headed to Montreal for an exhibition tour from Sept. 3 to 4.
STU faced Collège Édouard-Montpetit that Saturday, then Concordia University the following day.
“It should be a good soccer experience and team-building experience,” said Morrison.
The Tommies’ 2016 regular season began Saturday, Sept. 10 with a road game against the University of Kings College Blue Devils, which STU lost 4-0.
STU also faced the Mount Saint Vincent Mystics Sunday, Sept. 11 in Halifax and fell 2-0.
The team’s first home contest is against the Crandall Chargers on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 4 p.m. at Scotiabank Park South.
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