The glory is back for the St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians soccer team — and it’s about time.
The Laurentians always expect to win the Molson Challenge every season as most of their players will tell you, but in reality Holy Cross Kirby Group has been the best the league has had to offer the past several seasons.
Holy Cross didn’t make it to this year’s final. That opened the door to the Laurentians, who hadn’t won a provincial senior men’s soccer title since 2008, an eternity for St. Lawrence players and supporters.
And with a 2-0 win over Feildians Ernst & Young during the holiday weekend in St. Lawrence, the Laurentians have regained the title and all is well with the universe.
“The town needed this after four years of waiting,” said St. Lawrence Soccer Association president Hubert Beck. “There was a lot of happy soccer fans (on Sunday). The fans were like children on Christmas morning and so was I.”
“The party at our Trophy Lounge went on until morning and started again at noon when people got up. Thank God it was a long weekend.”
The Laurentians will compete for the national championship Thanksgiving Day Weekend in Halifax, where Big Blue won a bronze medal in 2007.
“There will be a very large fan base wearing blue in Halifax,” said Beck. “Facebook is alive with people planning for the trip. There are also a lot of Laurentians and fans from the Burin Peninsula in the Halifax area.
“I doubt any other club will have more fans than us in Halifax. Now to raise $30,000.00 in five weeks!”
Some of the ways the team plans to raise the money, according to Beck, will be through a Labatt-sponsored concert, auctions, beer bottle drives, tickets sales, town yard sales, dotations from businesses and “a lot of people in town will make a dotation.”
I asked Laurentian coach Blair Aylward what it means to the community to have won the provincial championship at home.
“We spoiled them in the 90’s and 00’s,” Aylward said about the loyal Laurentian fans. “The last four years have been tough on our great fans, but they are elated today.”
Aylward wasn’t surprised Feildians made it to the final.
“Their defence and goalkeeping were outstanding,” he said.
Laurentians co-captain Marc Pittman said the team was looking too far ahead in last year’s playoffs and it cost them.
“We already had our ticket booked for the final before we played Feildians,” he said of the 2-1 semifinal loss in 2012. “We took them for granted and underestimated their work rate. We sat back and never played our game. We got wrapped up in their game.
“We had a good team last year, but we lost of Feildians. We decided pretty soon after that, we needed to dig down and go for it this year since the tournament was in St. Lawrence.”
The past two years, the provincial Challenge Cup title has been up for grabs among the four contending teams. It seems all the clubs take it up a notch for the big tournament.
As it stands, Feildians Ernst & Young, which knocked of St. Lawrence in last year’s semifinal and Holy Cross 1-0 in this year’s semifinal only to lose in the championship game both years, are reduced to playing the spoilers role unless it can find some clutch scoring. It will be interesting to see if Feildians can get over the hump next season or remain bridesmaids.
Next year’s Challenge Cup final is scheduled for Topsail Field in Conception Bay South if Strikers FC is in the top four, which means you can expect the championship tournament will played at King George V Park in St. John’s.
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