Men’s soccer future in jeopardy

The STU men’s soccer team is in jeopardy after many players chose to stay home due to COVID-19. (Billy Cole/AQ)

The St. Thomas University men’s soccer team’s future is in jeopardy after a majority of players opted to stay in their hometowns due to COVID-19.

Of the 21 players recruited by head coach John-Ryan Morrison, 15 are from outside of Atlantic Canada. Only two local players were scheduled to suit up in the green and gold this season, as they are now down the hill with the University of New Brunswick, getting permission to train with them for this season.

“For various reasons, it did not make sense for them to come to Fredericton without a season,” Morrison said of his players located outside Atlantic Canada.

“We were very fortunate that our friends on the UNB men’s coaching staff allowed our boys to train with them this fall.”

In order for Morrison to keep his team for next season’s fall, he must recruit 15 new players to fill out his squad. Morrison said he typically likes to recruit from various provinces. While recruiting top prospects for the program is always a challenge, the process won’t get any easier for Morrison this time around, saying prospects won’t be able to visit and see when a great city Fredericton is because of the pandemic.

Morrison also brought up how recruits typically get to meet players and coaches and attend a game, which gives them a chance to see the support the program receives from the university.

“All of those factors are what makes us an attractive option … at the same time, I don’t get to see them play in person. I am relying on video and a lot of reference checks,” he said.

Mike Eagles, STU athletics director, said he’s satisfied with how Morrison has handled the situation presented to him. Eagles said Morrison’s history with recruitments has been great and now, it’s just a matter of finding players who will be present next season.

“How we handle it going forward is trying to get as many people as we can, or that can play at this level to be interested and potentially coming to STU,” he said.

“That might mean people from away and also might mean people from Fredericton or Harvey … that are not from away.”

While COVID-19 and online classes played a part in players not returning, Eagles said he’s not aware of any other issues. Morrison said it was a combination of classes, as well as not being able to schedule exhibition games.

Although next season is uncertain, Morrison is confident that if a team is put on the field, they will be contenders, even if half the team are new recruits and haven’t played with one another. If he is able to land the targets he has on his list, he said they’ll be ready.

“I have no doubt that we will be able to challenge for a playoff spot in 2021 and the [championship] in 2022.”