Changes all around for defending champions

John Browne
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Slight name tweak, big roster shuffle and a new C.B.S. home base for Holy Cross Kirby Group

Holy Cross Kirby Group were well-deserved Jubilee Trophy winners last year after going 19-1-1 in the regular-season and posting two shutout wins in the playoffs. But after undergoing big roster changes, Holy Cross may find itself challenged this season. The 2013 Jubilee Trophy season begins tonight with two games. — Telegram file photo

The name is slightly different, but it's the lineup changes that could mean defending Breen's Jubilee Trophy Women's Soccer League champion Holy Cross Kirby Group, with the added name of sponsor C.B.S., will not be the powerhouse they've been in recent years.

The team has lost seven players this year for a number of reasons and that's about a dozen spots that have changed in the past two years, so coach Dragan Mirkovic will have his work cut out in putting together another championship side.

"The list is longer than the St. John's phone book," Mirkovic said of the number of players not returning.

The list includes 12-goal scorer Shauna Gilpin, Leslie Pope, Kylie Snow and Heather Williams among others.

On the positive side, veteran Malorie Harris returns and Mirkovic is hoping to have Laura Breen on the field in a month when she's fully recovered from an injury.

"She'll help. She can play a number of positions which gives me options," noted Mirkovic.

Veteran goalkeeper Janine Bursey is one of the players gone and she will be replaced by former St. John's U18 keeper Jamie Crocker. Kaelyn Burke and Laurianne Sutton and Jenna Munden are other returning players, while Nicole Jessop is a newcomer.

In some ways, Mirkovic believes the changing of the guard may be a good thing.

"All that external pressure and hype surrounding the team will be gone," he said.

"What I hope to see is players just dealing with the internal pressure of trying to improve their personal performances and to get better without really feeling the pressure to always win every game.

"We weren't supposed to lose a game the entire season and that's crazy."

Still, the team almost did.

Holy Cross posted a 19-1-1 record last season on the way to its third straight Jubilee Trophy provincial women's soccer title, defeating Mount Pearl Electronic Centre/Molson 3-0 in the final at Smallwood Park in Mount Pearl.

Mount Pearl advanced to the final by beating Feildians Ernst & Young 1-0 in the semifinal.

Now known as C.B.S. Holy Cross Kirby Group, the team will play and train out of Topsail Field this season because the team balked at paying the new fees for playing at King George V Park.

The new Breen's Jubilee Trophy season opens with a double-header today.

St. John's U16 takes on Mount Pearl Electronic Centre Molson at 6:30 p.m. while Holy Cross Kirby Group plays Toyota Plaza Canada Games at 8:30 p.m. at Smallwood Park.

Feildians Ernst and Young is the other team competing for the championship.

There are six teams competing in the regular season, but the Canada Games squad, St. John's U16 and Mount Pearl U16 will play on an exhibition basis only and will not take part in the Jubilee Trophy playoffs.

"It should be an interesting season," said Mirkovic. "We have a lot of young players who are looking to prove something and that could be good for the team," said Mirkovic.

While he hopes to be competitive, Mirkovic's "number one objective" this season is to "bring back enthusiasm and the joy, all the things that were missing in the past."

Capsule look at the other PLAYOFF-ELIGIBLE Jubilee Trophy teams

Mount Pearl Electronic Centre/Molson

Coach: Mike Oliver

Last year's record: 6-5-10

Who's back: Lauren Windsor, Paula Whitten, Chelsea Tiller, Dana Brewer, Aoife Bodman, Kim Hickman, Kelsey Oliver, Lauren Murphy, Paige O'Driscoll, Laura Pittman, Tracey Dyer, Danielle Pinsent, Andrea Green

Who's gone: Kayla Greene, Erin Edwards, Stephanie Malone

Newcomers: Heather Williams, Amy Brushett, Courtney Sharron, Hannah Noseworthy, Katie Smith, Jamie Warren (back after missing last season due to a knee injury), Marisa McDonald, Julia Windsor, Katie Goodland, Heather Spurrell.

Outlook: "We've gotten much younger but we'll be competitive. We have depth and youth. It may take a few games to come together, but our objective is to build during the season for the playoffs." - Coach Mike Oliver

Feildians Ernst and Young

Coaches: John Acreman and Phil Oliver

Last year's record: 6-4-12

Who's back: Kathy Hurley, Liz McPhair, Maxine Morriss, Sue Myrden, Renee Jerrett, Amanda Budden, Sarah Facey, Nicola Facey, Susan Breen, Hillary Hutton, Mackenzie Thomas, Chrissy Hickey, Leslie Bradshaw. Nichole Adams, once a high-scoring forward for Cross, is also expected to return once clear of her school commitments.

Who's gone: Dimitri Kufudi

Newcomers: Erin Edwards comes over from Mount Pearl, while St. John's Under-18 graduates Rebecca Greene and Kim Parsons also join the mix. Acreman and Oliver will also spend part of this season "grooming" Marek Nakonieczny, and injured member of the men's team in Challenge Cup play, to take over as the team's bench boss. "He's very studious, very eager to learn and the girls are very receptive to him, too," explains Acreman, who is also coaching the Feildians men's side this season.

Outlook: "I'm very proud of where they started and how far they've come, they still have distance to travel to get where we want them to," says Acreman, who admits to having never coached an elite women's team before now. "The thing about these girls I really appreciate is that their work ethic is second to none. They've been working extremely hard throughout the winter and it's been a very positive experience."

Organizations: C.B.S. Holy Cross Kirby Group, Soccer League, Molson Toyota Plaza Canada Games

Geographic location: St. John's, Mount Pearl, Smallwood Park King George V Park Canada

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