Despite the team’s 10th-place showing, St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians coach Blair Aylward maintains Newfoundland senior men’s soccer hasn’t been left in the dust by the rest of the mainland.
“We haven’t fallen behind. We were much more competitive than our placing indicates,” he said following the 2013 national Challenge Cup championship held recently in Halifax.
Aylward said his team had to overcome a couple of early setbacks.
“We lost Stefan Slaney to injury 15 minutes into the tournament, and we lost Sean Edwards early in the second half of the game against Quebec with a red card on a brutal (officials) call.”
“We dominated the two games that were scoreless draws, but we couldn’t score,” said Aylward, who believes a fifth-to-seventh place finish is where they should have been based on their overall play last week.
The Laurentians’ only win was against Northwest Territories, hardly a rival for anyone.
Aylward, meanwhile, said goalkeeper John Douglas was the team’s best performer in the tournament.
“He was exceptional. And Young Jordi Slaney showed incredible poise and will be a standout in the years to come,” said Aylward.
Aylward, who congratulated the fifth-place C.B.S. Holy Cross Kirby Group for “a great showing at Jubilee nationals,” claimed any of the provinces could win the Challenge Cup these days, “with a few bounces and peaking at the right time.”
He pointed out small provinces such as Prince Edward Island (2010) and Saskatchewan (2009) have won the title in recent years.
Aylward said his team played, “really well overall and gained valuable experience for the future.”
He agrees great teams get the job done.
“No doubt we, as a team, and Newfoundland in general, have work to do. But with the new facilities allowing year-long training and leagues during the winter, I think we will see improvement at every age group over the next few years.”
Excuse me for not drinking the Laurentians Kool-Aid.
At his level, it matters little that St. Lawrence may have played well. Just playing well can’t be enough these days. We can’t settle for that anymore. It’s winning that counts at this level.
If you don’t score, it shouldn’t matter how well you’ve played the game because you haven’t gotten the job done. When the other nine provinces finished ahead of you, you might want to ponder what’s missing instead of what you have.
It might be true that our teams haven’t gotten the breaks in recent years. Perhaps we’ve convinced ourselves we are really as competitive as any province at the men’s nationals.
But where are the results to prove it?
Memorial’s men’s soccer team will stumble into the final regular season weekend of AUS soccer trying to avoid finishing in last place for a second straight year.
Though on a four-game losing streak, MUN (1-9-1) is already ahead of last year’s team which failed to win a game.
Heading into the final two games, the Sea-Hawks are two points behind Mount Allison Mounties in the fight to avoid the cellar.
Memorial plays Cape Breton Capers (4-4-3) Saturday and St. Francis Xavier X-Men (5-3-3) Sunday in Nova Scotia.
MUN has been in decline since they finished sixth in 2010 with a 5-5-3 record. The following season, they posted a 3-7-3 mark for eighth spot.
The Sea-Hawks had a strong team in 2005 when they finished fourth with a 7-2-3 record. That team included AUS first-team all-stars Clinton Edwards and Jon Kelly.
But MUN’s best team of the past 10 years was the 2004 lineup that included John Douglas, Clinton Edwards, Kevin Oram, Marc Pittman, Jeremy Babstock, Zach Attwood and Shawn Manning among other solid players who went on to play senior ball.
MUN, which finished second in the East Division at 7-4-1 that season, defeated Mount Allison Mounties 4-0 in the quarter-final before losing 1-0 to the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds in the semifinal.
Sea-Hawks’ coach Scott Betts received the AUS men’s soccer coach of the year award that season. His best move that year was switching defender Edwards, the team’s best player, to a forward position.