Before the 2019 Men's soccer season began, the team came together and came up with a couple of goals to strive for. One goal was placing third or higher in their division to qualify for this year's provincial tournament. Second goal was to end the regular season with a positive goal differential of +5. They made these goals for themselves as a way to be on the same page, instill a team first mentality, UBUNTU, their team motto.
The season started off with a home match vs Lakeland College, a new competitor to the North Division, followed by a second home match vs the Portage College Voyageurs, who was brand new to ACAC Soccer. The team was able to come out with 6 points (2 wins). Team Head Coach Todd Van Driel, looking back at that weekend, " We were ready and willing to battle it out that weekend. We had a bone to pick with Lakeland from the previous futsal season, and wanted to come out on top in this rematch. We also knew Portage was going to be a wildcard, and facing them on the opening weekend could go either way, thankfully the guys were prepared to play". This weekend set the standard for the squad, as they realized that they could contend as a top team.
Unlike the previous season, weather posed a positive affect on the net weekend, however a physical match vs GPRC meant a tired eagles squad vs the NAIT Ooks. A 2-0 win over the wolves did come at a price, as yellow cards and a physical battle meant that the next day, legs would be heavy vs the NAIT Ooks, as they fell 2-0 to the Ooks, breaking their winning streak. Van Driel recalls like it was yesterday that "you could simply tell that after a match where 11 cards were handed out, our guys simply could not keep up with a fresh NAIT group. The mind was willing, but the flesh was weak." The Eagles would look to see them again and in better shape.
After a decisive 10-1 win over the Portage College Voyageurs, the Eagles faced their self-proclaimed "rivals of the north" the Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder. After coming out flat in the first half, the eagles maintained a 0-0 match going into the second half, until 2nd year Dorian Jacobs struck a game winning ball from 20 yards, past All Conference Goalkeeper Scott Hornbeck. The Eagles were happy with the result, even though their first half was less than strong. Van Driel revels, as "it's always nice to know that our guys can have a poor half, yet still compete, and in this case win. We always seem to get a competitive mindset out of our lads when we play the thunder. That match was a showing of good character to bounce back and win the match."
From that point on, the Eagles struggled to earn results. A 1-0 win over Lakeland college, and a double draw wekend vs the Keyano College Huskies, mean that the Eagles were slipping. If they were going to finish the season strong, they would need to win in the month of October, or earn some help from other teams to clinch. Only one of those things happened. With an inability to win a game in the month of October, the Eagles earned some help from other teams, as Lakeland college lost to Concordia, which pushed the Eagles through to the Conference Championships.
In the final weekend, the Eagles earned a small spark back, drawing the CUE thunder 1-1. Coach Van Driel mentions that "this match was important to set the bar for ourselves in the championships. We didn't want to fizzle out before the championships even began." A beautiful set piece by Aaron Steenhof tied up the game early in the second half. Could the eagles keep that spark for the Conference Championships vs Lehtbridge College?
The provincial tournament was held in Edmonton by the NAIT Ooks. This was the 3rd time in the Eagles' soccer history, that they had reached the provincial tournament, and they were all excited. "We felt it was a big achievement. The 1st ever time our program made it twice in a row!" proclaimed head coach Todd Van Driel. As the Eagles finished, 6-3-3, which was good enough for third place in the ACAC north division. This meant they had to play the second place team in the south division, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks--a strong competitior in the South, and some argued the best in the south.
The Kodiaks had 4 all-conference players and the coach of the year, while the Eagles had 2 All Conference Players. But that was ok with the Eagles, because that just solidifies their team motto, of being about the team first. Once the game started, everyone knew the game would be tight throughout the whole game. Issues arrose however when the wind and snow began to pick up. "Winds picked up to the point that we could not even kick the ball past our 18 yard box" states Van Driel. "This became the most frustrating aspec of the game, because in the second half, the winds picked up, and we not only had to beat Lethbridge, but also the wind. Overall, we didn't manage the wind nearly as well as Lethbdrige." After a 0-0 first half, the eagles now had to face the wind, and it was their downfall. A final score of 2-0 meant Lethbridge would move on to the semis, and ultimately, take the Gold at the ACAC Championships. Van Driel wishes "all the best to Lethbridge this coming CCAA Championships, hopefully they can represent our Conference well!"
Now the team will be looking forward as they begin to train for their Futsal season. Congratulations to the Squad for some man yground breaking achievements this year!
Some Achievements from 2019 Season:
Second Straight Berth to Conference Championships
Highest CCAA National Rank - 9th
Most overall shutouts for a Goalkeeper in a single season (Tosh Hartley - 6)
Placed 3rd in ACAC North Division
Most Goals in a Single Match (10)
Most Goals in a Season (29)
Fewest Goals Conceded in a Season (12)