UPEI Panthers keeper Brett Strba makes a save during practice in the 2016 season.
©Jason Malloy/The Guardian
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Atlantic University Sport’s decision to extend training camp a week for soccer teams is music to Lewis Page’s ears.
“It’s like someone telling me Christmas gets to come a week early,” the UPEI Panthers men’s head coach said Thursday, on the eve of opening training camp in Charlottetown. “It’s great. The extra week is awesome.”
In the past, AUS teams had two weeks of camp before the regular season started. But in order to play games on both weekends, teams would play a game with only a day or two of practice.
Page said coaches had to try and squeeze a lot into a two-week camp.
“Now, we don't feel that pressure, that rush,” he said.
The Panthers finished 2016 with a 6-5-1 record and claimed the final playoff berth. They lost 3-0 to St. FX in the quarter-final.
A handful of players won’t be back this season.
Mark Ashlee, Harminder Singh and Blake Kelly have completed their UPEI eligibility while Kieran Moore is going to Dalhousie for medical school.
The team could have about 40 guys in camp with returnees, recruits and possible walk-ons. Camp begins today at 6:30 p.m. at the UPEI turf.
“We’re expecting a really competitive camp,” Page said. “We have a really good core, I think, of second-, third- and fourth-year players, who have gained a lot of experience over the last couple of years.”
Neil Harte, an attacking midfielder from Saskatchewan, is one of seven new additions. The remaining six – Donovan Bears, Donovan Wyand, Thomas Carter-Thompson, Daniel Martell, Cameron Trainor and Ryan Boswall – all played for Page as part of Team P.E.I. at the Canada Games in Winnipeg.
UPEI has pre-season games at UNB on Aug. 28 versus McGill and Aug. 29 against the host Varsity Reds. They are hosting the Mulligan Cup Sept. 1-3 with Holland College and Mount Saint Vincent from the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association.
The Panthers open the regular season on Saturday, Sept. 9, at home against the St. FX X-Men.