The Holland College Hurricanes like their chances as they prepare for a “wide open” Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) men’s soccer championship, says coach Jonathan Vos.
The Humber Hawks, the two-time defending champs and winners of four of the past five CCAA titles, and a strong Capilano squad from Vancouver were upset in conference play.
“We kind of feel it’s anybody’s game,” Vos said Sunday night. “The guys are excited. They know they’re in the mix, so it’s just a matter of bringing their A game.”
It won’t be easy as the Hurricanes, the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) champs, drew a strong Keyano Huskies squad from Fort McMurray, Alta.
In the last online rankings, the Hurricanes were ranked fourth and the Huskies third.
Humber was ranked first and didn't qualify for nationals while the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners are the host squad, but did not qualifying from their conference.
For the nationals, the Huskies are ranked first in a pool of four teams while the Hurricanes are last – a sign the CCAA deems the ACAA a weaker conference.
The Huskies finished second a year ago when they hosted the nationals.
Vos said they are a technical-sound team with strong international players.
“Their top midfielders and strikers are really technical and good on the ball,” he said. “We feel we’re prepared to go at them and give them a go.”
The Hurricanes went undefeated to win their fourth straight conference title. Their best finish at nationals was second in 2011.
This year’s team will be led by three fifth-year seniors in strikers Ibra Sanoh and Charles Aondo as well as centre back James Mallard.
Sanoh, who has won four straight ACAA player of the year awards, has 97 goals in 66 career games. Mallard was part of the UPEI Panthers bronze-medal winning squad from when they host nationals in 2014.
Vos said the trio is mature and levelheaded and he’s not concerned with them trying to do too much in their final post-secondary games.
“They’ll know the task at hand and can be up for it and have the right energy and mental approach to it,” he said.
While Sanoh has lit up the Atlantic conference, time and space becomes scarce at the national level. The native of Guinea could see double teams at time as teams try to limit the striker’s effectiveness.
“If he draws more than one player then he’s usually good to find an open teammate to try and expose that,” Vos said.
The team also has some youth who will be making their first trip to nationals, which is important as the squad will host the 2018 championships.
The Hurricanes left early Monday morning and had about 20 hours of travel. It included stops in Toronto and Calgary. The team took advantage of the downtime to do some yoga at the Calgary airport.
The team had a practice on Tuesday and are the first game of the day when the tournament begins today at 10 a.m. Pacific (2 p.m. Atlantic).
Vos liked the start time.
“You don't want guys overthinking it,” he said. “That first 20 minutes is really key in any game, but especially that first game (at nationals), just to get your bearings.
“After the first 20 minutes everything kind of settles down and you get into the rhythm of the game.”
Need to know
Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association men’s soccer championships.
What – The top eight men’s college soccer teams battling for a national title.
When – Today through Saturday.
Where – Vancouver Island University is hosting the tournament at its Nanaimo Campus in British Columbia.
Today quarter-final schedule:
All times are Atlantic
2 p.m. – Keyano Huskies vs. Holland College Hurricanes.
4:30 p.m. – Algonquin Thunder vs. Douglas Royals.
7 p.m. – Durham Lords vs. NAIT Ooks.
9:30 p.m. – Indiens d’Ahuntsic vs. VIU Mariners.