Mike Dunn (left) of Holy Cross knees the ball away from a pressing Mark Reddy (14) of Mount Pearl in their Challenge Cup provincial men’s soccer game Saturday at King Gerorge V pitch in St. John's. — Photo By Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
Defending Molson Challenge Cup soccer champions Holy Cross Kirby got off to an impressive season start with a 4-1 win over Mount Pearl That Pro Look Molson, on the weekend, but it is obvious the team wants so much more before the year’s over.
“Yeah, it’s a good win, but it’s only the first game, so we’re not getting too excited,” said Holy Cross coach Jake Stanford.
While Holy Cross are the odds-on-favourite to repeat as provincial champions, Stanford insisted that doesn’t mean his team won’t be pushed this season.
“Other teams are motivated to play good against us,” said Stanford, who added his players may need “internal motivation” to keep themselves focused.
“It’s good to get that first win out of the way, but we expect tough games from Mount Pearl this season.
“We scored four against (them), but they had a pretty good second half and certainly had their share of ball possession.”
And Stanford said while St. Lawrence has lost a few players, “They have lot of motivation to stay up among the contenders. Will they be able to do that? I’m not sure. That’s a tough call,” he added.
Holy Cross finished a dismal 10th and last place at last year’s BMO nationals, although those who saw the tournament in Prince Edward Island agreed the Crusaders were not that bad.
“We were disappointed with our results at nationals. We played better than the record (0-3-1) indicated, but the bottom line is we didn’t win,” noted Stanford.
“We took it on the nose and we’re upset. We know you get judged by where you finish, but by the time we played for ninth place there was really no motivation for us. In fact,” he added, “once we lost to Quebec and fell out of the medals it was tough to keep the players motivated.”
“It’s good to get that first win out of the way, but we expect tough games from Mount Pearl this season. We scored four against (them), but they had a pretty good second half and certainly had their share of ball possession.” Jake Stanford
“But we’re still a young team and we haven’t peaked. We still have some growing pains. But obviously if we didn’t get back to the nationals this year it would be a disappointment.”
Stanford was quick to add, “We’re not looking ahead to nationals yet, obviously.”
Right now, the team’s goal is to make it back to the provincial final.
“We were not in the provincial final for several years and now that we are back there we’ve got the pressure to at least make it to the championship every year. And there’s no doubt teams will measure themselves against us as they did for several years with St. Lawrence,” said Stanford.
“We were happy to get back to the championship level and now it’s another learning experience,” Stanford said. “The players have to motivate themselves to stay on top of the league which means not second guessing your opponents and not being overconfident.”
Holy Cross returns a solid lineup this season and Stanford says the players have the same “great attitude.”
The only two new roster players are young midfielders Michael Dunn and Michael Brushett who are up from the St. John’s U18 team.
Forward Aaron Anstey won’t be available to the team this season do to an injury.
Sean Edwards of St. Lawrence had worked out with the team but will not play for the Crusaders this season.
Stanford laughed and said he didn’t want to say any more about that because he didn’t want to get involved in any “St. Lawrence politics.”
In the meantime, Jay Babstock has moved on to play for Feildians and Corey Mullett is with CB Auto Strikers.