By Kirk Jessome
With such a young roster, the 2017-18 season had a promising start for the men’s soccer team, but a tough second half of the season led to a disappointing finish without a spot in the playoffs.
The squad was led by the veteran back line of Jonathan Doucett, Jeff Arkin and keeper TJ Leopold. They were key to the Tigers strong start to the season, going unbeaten in their first five games with a 3-0-2 record while conceding just three goals.
The team finished the first half of the season with a convincing 6-1 victory over Mount Allison with the Tigers finding the back of the net four times in the first half alone. Kallen Heenan collected three of his team-high five goals on the season in the win.
The majority of the offensive output on the season was provided by Heenan, Freddy Bekkers and Tareq Armoush who all brought a wealth of experience to a very young group. First-year stirker Enrico Rodriguez also added three points from the wing and Tigers head coach Pat Nearing expressed how impressed he was with the contributions of his young players.
“We had an excellent group of young players join us this season,” says head coach Pat Nearing. “ Many of whom made significant contributions right away.”
The team hit a slide in the second half of the season, failing to pick up a point in their final five games causing them to drop out of playoff contention with a 4-6-2 record. It was a cold-streak at a tough time in the schedule as the team played the undefeated Cape Breton Capers team twice, with the other three games being against playoff teams as well.
Despite the losing streak, Nearing praises the team’s ability to stay focused.
“We had some injury problems and that meant we went cold scoring goals. The team was young, and although the results were not as we planned, the players always competed and never lost their desire to win.”
Three of the games in the losing skid were 1-0, and to Nearing it shows that the offence wasn’t there consistently enough.
“We underachieved this season. With the players we had on the team we should have scored more goals. That, surprisingly, in the end was our weakness and it stopped us from progressing into the playoffs.”
Focusing on strength and conditioning to come back healthy and staying that way throughout the season is the main goal for the squad this off-season as they look to bounce back to their old form and challenge the top teams in the playoffs.