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UPEI Panthers ready to rock


Men's soccer squad in St. John’s, N.L., for opening games of AUS regular season

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The UPEI Panthers are looking to carry momentum from a perfect pre-season into today’s opening game of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) men’s soccer regular season.

The Panthers are in St. John’s, N.L., for 2:45 p.m. games today and Sunday with the Memorial Sea-Hawks.

The Panthers had a 4-0 pre-season where they outscored Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, Holland College and Mount Allison 15-0. It’s provided a confidence boost for the squad, said third-year Panthers Cohen Reddick-Stevens.

“To not give up a goal in four games is a testament,” he said, to the strength of the squad. “Everybody played well the first four games.”

And while it is nice to have a strong pre-season, the squad knows it doesn’t mean much now, and they won’t be overconfident heading into the regular season.

“It certainly gives us some belief that what we’re trying to do is the right thing,” said head coach Lewis Page. “Pre-season is always hard to judge because you don't know if the opposition is playing all of their players and everybody is kind of in that preparation phase. Obviously, it will be a much more of a challenge coming into regular season now.”

This will be Reddick-Stevens’ first trip to St. John’s, N.L., to play Memorial as the conference has an unbalanced scheduled.

“It doesn’t matter where we go as long as we believe and work as hard as we can,” said the 20-year-old Cole Harbour, N.S., native. “We know we can play with every team in this league.”

RELATED: Click here for the roster.

There are some challenges playing in Newfoundland presents, including the travel, but the squad left Friday and is expected to be rested and ready to hit the field today.

“The Memorial men’s team is always a challenge to play because they play with a ton of passion,” Page said. “They have talented players and, tactically, they’ll give you two or three different looks, so we have to be prepared for a little bit of everything.”

UPEI received some tough news during training camp when centre back Mark Smith told the coaches he would not be returning. He dealt with injuries last year, so the team knows what it is like to play without him, but it is still a loss at a key position.

Reddick-Stevens has bounced around the pitch a bit during his Panthers days and begins the year as a centre back playing alongside a five-man defensive unit that includes Jake Deighan with Mon San Aung, Josh MacKillop and Chris Sear.

“I’m feeling confident and comfortable,” he said.

Page had told him prior to the summer he was likely going to play midfield or a wide position but he had to change plans during training camp. He said Reddick-Stevens has taken the challenge head-on and is now leading from the back field.

The team does have two veteran keepers in Brett Strba and Nathan Ford and key players throughout its lineup from Jake Deighan, Nacho Sanchez and Lucas Ross to Sam Smiley, Neil Harte and Mohammad Jaber. Many are in their third or fourth year.

A decision on a starting keeper had not been made on Friday.

“One of the great things about the squad right now is we have serious competition for places all over the field,” Page said, “which means everybody has to stay sharp and everybody is pushing each other.”


Need to know

A look at the UPEI Panthers sports teams schedule for this weekend.

Today

Women’s soccer

12:30 p.m. – UPEI at Memorial.

Women’s rugby

2 p.m. – UPEI at Acadia

Men’s soccer

2:45 p.m. – UPEI at Memorial.

Sunday
Women’s soccer

12:30 p.m. – UPEI at Memorial.

Men’s rugby

2 p.m. – UPEI at St. Thomas.

Men’s soccer

2:45 p.m. – UPEI at Memorial.

Men’s soccer coach Lewis Page: “The guys are chomping at the bit to get going, and we can’t wait to start playing for real points.”

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