If you want to take a glimpse at the Memorial Sea-Hawks’ men’s soccer team by the numbers, consider these: the squad finished under .500 this year, winning five games but losing six; of the six losses, all but one were one-goal games.
But the numbers that really stick are 5-0, which was the score of a Sept. 30 game in favour of the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds at King George V Park.
That’s the same UNB team which Memorial faces 4:30 p.m. (NL time) today in the first round of the Atlantic University Sport men’s soccer playoffs at Cape Breton University Field in Sydney, N.S.
It’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for the Sea-Hawks, back in the AUS post-season after going 3-7-2 and locked out of the playoff dance last year.
MUN registered three straight wins to open the season, then lost four straight. The Sea-Hawks went 2-2-1 in October to close out the regular season.
On Sept. 30, the Varsity Reds handed the Sea-Hawks their lunch at King George, with a 5-0 pasting. Memorial, however, responded in the rematch Sunday with a gritty effort in a 1-0 victory.
Sea-Hawks coach Jake Stanford said it was back to the drawing board in terms of a game plan for the return match, the same plan he hopes to take into today’s quarter-final game.
And that plan would be …
“I’m not saying,” chuckled Stanford, before the Sea-Hawks left for Nova Scotia Wednesday. “But in all seriousness, we made mistakes in all areas (in the 5-0 loss), and they made us pay.
“When you think of a 5-0 score, right away you think keeper and the backline, but we made errors all over the field, which led to turnovers. It’s the same thing in hockey: if a team loses 5-0 or 6-0, people think goaltending and the defence. But what happens if the forwards are turning over the puck at the red line all night?
“For us, it was a matter of tweaking, tightening up and being more disciplined in all areas of the pitch.”
As we mentioned, it was the only lopsided loss the Sea-Hawks suffered this season, the other five coming by a goal.
Stanford expects today’s playoff tilt to be just as tight.
“Nothing’s going to change in that regard,” he said. “The team that wins is the one that will be better prepared, and will capitalize on the few chances they get.”
UNB, which finished third in the regular season standings, was 7-3-2 on the year and popped 25 goals, second-highest in the conference this season.
MUN wasn’t bad with 20, but eight of those came against a desperate Mount Allison squad that was 0-12 and allowed 63 goals.
However, that said, striker Tyler Forsey scored nine, the second-highest total in the conference. Two of those came last Saturday in a 2-1 win over Moncton at King George, which essentially put the Sea-Hawks in the playoffs.
If the Sea-Hawks get past the Varsity Reds today, they will face the first-place and host Cape Breton Capers in a semifinal Saturday. The Capers were undefeated in the regular season going 11-0-1, with one of their wins coming over Memorial on Sept. 23, when they edged the Sea-Hawks 3-2 in Sydney.
The Memorial women’s soccer team is also in the AUS playoffs and have a first-round bye into Friday’s semifinals in their tourney at Antigonish, N.S.
All games of the AUS men’s and women’s soccer championships will be available via webcast, live at www.AUStv.ca.