Holy Cross captain Ryan Yetman (far left) is flanked by teammates as he runs to congratulate teammate Matthew Breen (not pictured) after Breen scored on a penalty kick in the championship game against Mount Pearl to clinch the 2011 Challenge Cup title for the Crusaders last month in St. John’s. Cross will begin play at the national championships in Brossard, Que., on Wednesday. — Telegram file photo
Holy Cross Kirby soccer coach Jake Stanford maintains last year’s record at nationals was not indicative of his team’s talent.
The Crusaders finished dead last at the national championship last fall in Prince Edward Island and are looking for a little redemption at this year’s tourney being held Oct. 5-11 in Brossard, Que.
Stanford says the 10th place finish didn’t do the team justice.
“Although we finished at the bottom, all of the games were close,” said Stanford.
“We could have won every game. But the people back home only look at the wins and losses, I guess.”
Although Holy Cross has won three straight provincial men’s championships, “I can tell you we’re not happy until we do something at the nationals,” said Stanford.
By ‘something’ he means at least a medal.
“If we don’t do anything at the nationals it’s going to be a big disappointment. We were really disappointed last year. We have a lot of pride.”
Stanford said the team's goal at the start of this season was to get back to the Canadian tournament, “but we don’t want to go up just to compete. That’s not what we’re about anymore.”
Holy Cross dominated the local Challenge Cup league, going 18-1-1 during the regular season.
However, the Crusaders didn’t exactly overpower their opposition in the provincial playoffs. Holy Cross got a late goal by Jon Hawco to defeat Feildians 1-0 in the semifinals and then needed an overtime goal by Ryan Yetman to send the final to penalty kicks which the Crusaders eventually won 4-3 over Mount Pearl.
“Our goal is to get to a medal game,” said Stanford. “It’s not going to be easy, but we’re not satisfied with just winning our championship.”
Stanford gave his team a week off after winning the provincial championship. Since then, the team has practised about a dozen times in three weeks to go along with a couple of exhibition games against Memorial University and one match against Challenge Cup counterparts, the Conception Bay Strikers FC.
The Cross coach said keeping the players mentally focused over the long wait before the nationals is always “an issue.
“It’s such a big high after Labour Day, so you’ve got to give the guys some time to recover and refocus slowly over time.”
“Our guys are grounded in terms of expectations. We are happy to get back and get another chance. The provincial final was so tight it could have gone either way,” noted Stanford.
“Maybe that’s a little bit of adversity you need some times to have a bit of success. That’s what we’re hoping for, anyway.”
In the meantime, Mike Brushett, who picked up a knee injury in the semifinal against Feildians is unable to make the trip. And Chris Bulger is unable to go due to work and school commitments.
The Crusaders have added Aaron Anstey, who missed the regular season due to an injury, and former St. John’s U18s player Aaron Buckingham.
Holy Cross opens against rival Prince Edward island, the defending champions Wednesday and play Manitoba Thursday.
This year there are four division of three teams with the top two teams advancing to the playoffs.
Holy Cross Kirby Group roster includes John Douglas, Scott Edwards, Colin Doyle, Jake Warren, Chris Pope, Andrew Le, Brian Reddy, Jeremy Babstock, Chris Bulger, Matt Breen, Jon Hawco, Corey Moore, Andrew Stanford, Scott Woodfine, Ryan Yetman, Jeff Slaney, Mike Brushett, Mike Dunn, Zack Wade; coach Noel “Jake” Stanford, assistant coach Ken Jackson, manager Keith Fahey and manager Colin Doyle.