Jake Stanford was trying to catch a few extra winks Tuesday morning in Saskatoon, Sask., partly because of a long travel day Monday, one that was fraught with delays, and also because he has a busy five or six days ahead of him.
Stanford is coaching both Holy Cross entries at the Canadian Challenge Cup and Jubilee Trophy men’s and women’s soccer championships which open today in Saskatchewan, and while the schedule is working in his favour in that neither team conflicts with each other, it probably means he’ll be at the soccer pitch upwards of five hours daily.
Of course, it will be all worth it if the Crusaders teams are there at the end, playing for a medal Sunday and Monday.
That was the case last year when the Holy Cross-Avalon Ford women’s team won the bronze medal, the first female squad from this province to win Jubilee Trophy hardware.
Holy Cross is the second seed in Group B, with top-seeded B.C., the silver medalists last year, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
To nobody's surprise, Holy Cross won the provincial women's senior soccer championship this past summer, their third straight crown to cap off an unbeaten season.
The red and gold return to the nationals with virtually the same squad. Only former all-star Connie Lewis is not back, after having tried her hand at the pro game in Australia six months ago, until her season was derailed by a knee injury.
“We came close to winning it all last year,” Stanford said, “so the big difference between this season and last year is the level of confidence we have as a team.
“It goes without saying that can go a long way.”
Holy Cross registered wins over Quebec and Saskatchewan in the preliminary round last year, but the Newfoundland representatives didn't score a goal in the three-team medal round, getting shut out 1-0 by host Surrey before being blanked 3-0 by Edmonton.
Surrey and Edmonton had played to a 2-2 tie in their medal-round meeting, but the Albertans claimed gold by virtue of a better goal differential.
The Crusader women are certainly familiar with their opponents this week. Halifax, whom they meet today, and Holy Cross have battled in at least two previous nationals. Their other two opponents are Saskatchewan (Thursday) and B.C. (Saturday), teams they faced last year.
Playoffs are Sunday.
Stanford will be assisted by Paul Mullett.
As for the men, the Crusaders are back in the same city where Holy Cross won its only national Challenge Cup championship 30 years ago.
They’re coming off a seventh-place finish last year in Surrey, B.C.
Holy Cross will be bolstered with the additions of Zach Wade, the provincial Challenge Cup MVP from two years ago, and Matt Breen, the MVP of the 2014 Challenge Cup final.
Neither player dressed a game this season, and Stanford still hasn’t decided if one or both will start this week.
“They’ve had some scrimmages with the MUN (Sea-Hawks) team,” he said. “I know it’s not the same as playing a full season or even half a season, but they’ve always been top players in Challenge Cup, and they’re both in shape. Matt’s fitness is off the charts.
“We’re stronger now than we were on the final weekend.”
Matt Breen, by the way, is the son of soccer Hall of Famer John Breen, who was a key member of that ’88 squad.
Holy Cross won its second straight provincial championship in September, and 19th title since the Challenge Cup league was formed in 1967.
Jeremy Babstock is assisting Stanford on the Holy Cross men’s teams bench.
One thing is certain, Holy Cross has a tough schedule. The fourth-seeded Crusaders in Group B play Manitoba, the reigning national silver medalists, today, followed by Ontario Friday, the Northwest Territories Saturday and Quebec Sunday.
Playoffs are Monday.
Meanwhile, the boys’ under-15 and under-17 nationals are also this weekend, with Feildians representing the province in Laval, Que., (U15) and Surrey, B.C. (U17).
St. John’s will carry the Newfoundland and Labrador girls’ banner at the U17 tournament in Surrey, while C.B.S. is at the U15 nationals in Laval.
Holy Cross Challenge Cup men
Jeff Slaney, Jack Haywood, Alex Pretty, Andrew Stanford, Sean Henderson, Harry Carter, Alex Dolomont, Jake Warren, Fomba Fambulleh, Tyler Kirby, Ethan Slaney, Matthew Breen, Owen McAleese, Owen Sheppard, Jon Hawco, Zach Wade, Scott Woodfine, assistant coach Jeremy Babstock and coach Jake Stanford
Holy Cross Jubilee Trophy women
Anna Aucoin, Emily Bailey, Jennifer Bent, Julie Crocker, Jamie Crocker, Kate Hickey, Maria Mackey, Teri Murphy, Jessie Noseworthy, Holy O’Neil, Jane Pope, Melissa Reid, Lauren Taylor, Nicole Torraville, Paula Whitten, Spencer Wilkins, Keisha Younge, assistant coach Paul Mullett, coach Jake Stanford
St. John’s girls
Mackenzie Hiscock, Maria Downey, Hayley Peters, Camryn Bonia, Laura Murray, Anna Edwards, Alexandra Murphy, Regan Mahoney, Ashley O’Neill, Julie Oliver, Emily Wicks, Ashley Stringer, Abbie Betts, Amanda Pearcey, Chloe McKeown, Anna James, coach Scott Betts, assistant coach Scott Edwards and manager Julie Downey
Theo Amey, Braedon Beer, Daniel Churchill, Matthew Davis, Harley Dollimont, Jacob Dyer, Cameron Flynn, Eric Knight, Evan Knight, Christopher Longtin, Cameron Lundrigan, Ian MacIntosh, Colin McKinnon, Ben Moret-Rideout, Devon O’Keefe, Jude Power, Joshua Power, Lucas Shortall, coach Scott Knight, manager Sandi Flynn
Ashlan Anstey-Kennedy, Breanne Gilmore, Katie Greenslade, Hannah Fudge, Hailey Bryant, Moira Costigan, Maria Moores, Courtney Neville, Leah Penney, Belle King, Tyra Cable, Keely Brown, Isabella Hoddinott, Lauren Rowe, Maggie McGann, Brooklyn Sooley, Jessie Ball, coaches Robin Browne and Dennis Neville, manager Kim Anstey
Daniel Hanlon, Liam Hennessey, Brett Russell, Jonathan Furlong, Colby Stephen, Jacob Bartlett, Ayman Islam, Edmund Oates, Taj Exley, Brandon Toope, Alex Brothers, Ben James, Seamus Best, James Clarke, Patrick Hurley, Andrew Power, Owen Flynn, coaches Charlie Simmonds and P.J. Power, manager Valerie Hennessey