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Hurricanes men's soccer team has eyes on the prize

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When you’re top dog, there are lots of canines stiffing around for weaknesses.

So the Holland College Hurricanes men’s soccer team don’t intend to reveal any when the three-time defending Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association champs go into the 2017 championship tourney Saturday in Saint John, N.B.

The top-ranked ‘Canes face fourth-seeded Crandall University (5-5-2) at 3 p.m. in the first of two semifinals and Holland College striker Ibra Sanoh said no one’s looking past the Chargers.

“Always we look at every game as a challenging game. It’s not an easy game,” said Sanoh.

The Conakry, Guinea native, tore up the ACAA this season for a league-high 27 goals in 12 games, a full 14 goals more than the closest rival James Whiteman of King’s College (13 goals).

Sanoh, the reigning ACAA player of the year, had more goals than five conference teams.

So the marketing and advertising management student knows all Crandall’s eyes will be on him and he must open up opportunities for teammates.

“I’ve got to come and get the ball and turn (and create) space for my teammates to slide into,” he said.

Sanoh’s output helped Holland College roll to a 12-0 record and 50 total goals or a gaudy four goals per game. Now, double-digit wins is nothing new for the ‘Canes which have won at least 11 games the past four seasons. Including this year, Holland College is 45-0-3 since 2014 in the ACAA.

Gaudy numbers, but that success hasn’t translated to the national level where the ‘Canes have a top finish second earned in 2011. Since 2014 Holland College has eighth, seventh and fifth place finishes, respectively, at the nationals.

Naturally goalkeeper Brandon Lund wants to change that, but the Montague native isn’t peeking beyond Crandall either.

“We have to sit back a little bit, be patient, don’t give them a lot of tackles. (And on counterattacks) I have to make sure the boys on defence are in good position. Sometimes if the boys aren’t ready they can be caught off guard,” said Lund, a first-year sport and leisure management student.

Saturday’s other semi has King’s College (2) facing Mount Saint Vincent (3) at 5:30 p.m. Semi winners go to Sunday’s title game at 2:30 p.m.

That winner goes to the national tourney Nov. 8-11 in Nanaimo, B.C., hosted by Vancouver Island University.

An appearance there is on Lund’s mind, but the rookie talked to veterans of the ACAA wars who reinforced the necessity of remaining glued to Saturday’s contest knowing what’s at stake.

“We talked about it. There are a lot of expectations of this team to perform well.”

The Holland College women’s team tied with King’s College with 15 points, but King’s earned the fourth playoff spot for the women’s portion of the championship in Saint John because of a better goals-for goals-against ratio.

Lund, who had 10 goals against in 10 games, was named ACAA goalkeeper of the year at the conference awards banquet, while Sanoh earned his fourth straight ACAA player of the year and Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association all-Canadian.

Sanoh, Lund, James Mallard (Charlottetown) and Eberechi Okwuwolu (Lagos, Nigeria) were named to the first team, while Theo Ngezahayo (Butare, Rwanda), James Briand (Antigonish, N.S.) and Charles Aondo (Lagos, Nigeria) were named to the second team.

On the women’s side, Katherine Drake (first) and Sabrina Molnar (second) were named to the ACAA all-conference teams.

Drake of Stratford is a fourth-year player studying in the photography program while Molnar of Ottawa, Ont., is in her second year  in the travel and tourism management program.

All games will be webcasted at www.acaatv.ca.

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Who’s in this thing?

Teams and schedule for the 2017 ACAA men’s soccer championship Saturday and Sunday in Saint John, N.B.

Teams - Holland College (1, 12-0), King’s College (2, 8-2-2), Mount Saint Vincent (3, 6-4-2), Crandall (4, 5-5-2).

Saturday

3 p.m. - Holland College vs. Crandall, semifinal

5:30 p.m. - King’s College vs. Mount Saint Vincent, semifinal

Sunday

2:30 p.m. - Championship game

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