C.B.S. Holy Cross Kirby Group coach Dragan Mirkovic has changed his tune.
Mirkovic was pretty harsh in his assesment of his team’s chances at the 2013 national Jubilee Trophy championship in Nova Scotia.
However, he got a fifth-place finish out of the women, three places better than last year.
“I was crying out loud before the tournament trying to provoke and to get a response,” admitted Mirkovic Tuesday.
Well, he got the response he was hoping for.
“The team finished fifth but, trust me, it feels like the gold,” Mirkovic added.
“All our opposition said that Holy Cross team was championship material,” noted Mirkovic, “and if a ridiculous penalty call had not been given to Ontario in a key moment of the game that might have materialized.”
Ontario defeated the Newfoundland and Labrador representatives 3-1 in the opening game of the tournament which put them behind the eight-ball.
“Tactically, the girls executed our game plans extremely well but what made a real difference was the character.
While Mirkovic praised his entire team for its effort, he gave kudos to two particular players.
“Laura Breen, who continues to amazes me, was a top defender at the tournament and Malorie Harris was a top striker.
“What does it take to be considered for the national team program and I am talking about U18 girls as well?” asked Mirkovic. I don’t know, but if you show me the three strikers better than Malorie at the moment I will pay for their life expenses for a full year.”
Now that a couple of female soccer teams have distinguished themselves at the national level, how do we maintain the momentum?
“To be a truly contender on a consistent basis we need to look at a few elements,” noted Mirkovic.
It’s starts with fitness, which the coach says has to be improved.
“We did a very good job in taking possibilities from our opponents by denying quality space and time, but, when we won the ball, forward movement over 90 minutes was slow and inaccurate.
“Also, more often than not we didn’t make the right pass. But,as coaches, we don’t analyze why the right pass has not been played. We focus on what’s been done and not on what hasn’t been done.
“My point is that the difference between the fifth and the first is in very small details such as proper fitness. The right character is already there. However, looking and analyzing the games at the tournament that was 50 per cent stronger than the one in 2012, I think in 2014 or more realistically in 2015, we will be there.
“Tactically, we are maturing and our defending is getting tight and unbreakable. Yes Harris gets the glory but defending wins the tournaments.”
So what are we to make of our teams performances at the recent national senior soccer championships.
The men basically hit rock bottom while the women improved three spots.
Our senior men’s representatives could only beat the Northwest Territories and finished 10th at the Challenge Cup. The St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians performance comes on the heels of an eighth-place finish by Holy Cross Kirby Group the previous year.
These two clubs are the best we’ve ever had to offer in our history and while there’s been some success at the nationals over the years, we haven’t had a national champion since 1988 (Holy Cross). Our last national medal was a bronze in 2007 (St. Lawrence).
Based on the St. John’s U18 girls silver medal and the finish of our senior women, it would seem the females are on the rise with the men falling back or stagnant.