No place but up

John Browne
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Memorial Sea-Hawks look for a turnaround season

Memorial Sea-Hawks men’s soccer coach Scott Betts (right) chats with his players during a practice Thursday night at the Techniplex. MUN takes on Saint Mary’s Huskies  today and Sunday at King George V Park. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Nowhere to go but up is often used as a cliche for sports teams, but as far as Memorial Sea-Hawks men’s soccer club is concerned, that’s exactly the situation.

There’s not much you can say about a last-place 0-11-2 team that scored three goals in 13 games while giving up 34.

Those are the cold, hard facts and coach Scott Betts is under no illusions about what his team faces to make the climb back to respectability.

However, like most coaches, he remains optimistic about the future.

“We’re obviously in a slump, but we’ve got some new blood, new energy and youth that could bring some success to the program,” said Betts. “It’s a new look, for sure.”

The Sea-Hawks open the 2013 Atlantic University Sport (AUS) season 5:15 p.m. today and 1:15 Sunday against Saint Mary’s Huskies at King George V Park.

The Huskies finished in second place in the conference, one point behind the University of New Brunswick last season.

An indication of just how strong the top conference teams were last year is that third-place Cape Breton Capers won the championship after finishing just two points ahead of University of Moncton and Dalhousie Tigers.

Despite MUN’s poor record last season, it didn’t stop 60 people from trying out for the squad this year. Betts quickly cut that in half and finally down to a 24-man roster.

“You start by eliminating the slow of foot and slow of mind,” Betts said with a chuckle.

“It’s obvious there are those who are not yet ready to play at the AUS level, some because of fitness reasons,” noted Betts. “There are also good, young kids I would have liked to keep around, but if you have a bigger numbers of players on the roster, it just gets too cumbersome and too hard to deal with.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “I’ve had to let go guys who I think could play in the AUS in a year’s time.”

The veteran MUN mentor didn’t have a whole lot of time to make the cuts as the Sea-Hawks didn’t begin their open tryouts until Monday, just after the Molson Challenge Cup provincial senior soccer final in St. Lawrence.

That’s another thorn in Betts’ side as he’d really like to see the provincial title decided at least a week earlier, though he realizes that’s not likely to happen.

“An extra week of practice could make a big difference,” the coach said.

“We’ve had to rush through the selection process. We’ve had only a few practices to get ourselves ready for this weekend.”

With so little time, Betts said Memorial will be looking to the returnees and players who have played in the past and have returned to provide the leadership required.

Some of the promising newcomers are Jordi Slaney, Alex Pretty and Dawson Cole, who had very successful summers both in the Challenge Cup and at the Canada Games, and should make an immediate impact.

And Ben Collingwood of Feildians was chosen the rookie of the year in the Challenge Cup League.

“A number of the rookies have shown promise thus far, but training and playing are two completely different environments,” said Betts.

The team could sure use some kind of a change after last year’s disasterous campaign— physiological or other wise.

Third-year veteran Matthew Hamlyn said going through last season without a win was, “the hardest thing to do, because it’s winning that gives you confidence.”

He said during a break in a practice session Thursday night at the Techniplex that it got tougher after each loss to, “put your boots on and battle again.”

Hamlyn said the funny thing is you can make a ton of mistakes, but if you get a win, it doesn’t seem to matter.

“But if you play your best game ever and lose, all you can focus on is mistakes,” he said.

He said while it was a tough season, the players knew it was OK as long as long as the effort was there, “… as long you showed up.”

Hamlyn said he’s encouraged to see the energy and enthusiasm in practice and he hopes that translates to a better record this season.

In the meantime, MUN lost the services of starting centreback Greg Reid, who broke his ankle while playing for Feildians in the Challenge Cup championship tournament.

Other newcomers include Bevan Sanderson from New Brunswick, Nick Pimental from Ontario, Hadyn MacLean from Alberta, Jerry Drame, a transfer from Laurentian University, and Cody Field, a transfer from Dalhousie and Holland College.

Organizations: Atlantic University Sport, University of New Brunswick, University of Moncton and Dalhousie Tigers.Despite MUN Molson Canada Games Challenge Cup League Laurentian University

Geographic location: Saint Mary, New Brunswick, Ontario Alberta

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