After nine agonising months without AUS soccer, Capers fans will be relieved to hear that we are now just over one week away from kicking off the 2019 season.
The CBU men's soccer team enjoyed a sterling 2018 under the guidance of their influential Head Coach Deano Morley, finishing the campaign with a U-Sports national silver medal and third consecutive AUS conference title. Morley was also named AUS and U-Sports Coach of the Year for the second season running, with CBU standout Peter Schaale picking up AUS Most Valuable Player. Despite the continued success of the CBU men's soccer program and his numerous individual accolades, Morley refuses to rest on his laurels.
"First of all, those awards should be called coaches of the year, because we are a coaching team and I think it's a reflection of the staff I have around me. Second of all, I've never been hungrier. Last year we lost in the national final and we lost in our bid to host the national finals this year. So, as a coach, I've made it clear to everyone that there's a different level of determination and there's a different level of inspiration. There's a fight in me, there's a fight in my coaching staff and I can feel it in my players. There's a determination in us this year to come out with a vengeance."
The all-consuming desire to win is a common trait amongst successful coaches and with the 2019 season coming sharply into focus, Morley is looking to channel that energy into overturning last year's crushing national championship loss to Montreal.
"We landed where you wouldn't want to land in a national final, we just weren't healthy enough. It wasn't a good reflection of how we played soccer all year. For this year; we've boosted the squad, we've added depth to the squad, we've added competition for places within the squad. Fitness levels are up but the biggest thing with this year, I'll say it over and over again, is that there is a fire and relentless energy within the playing and coaching staff. We're focused, determined and our goal is to be back in that final and win the championship playing good football."
If that goal is to be realised, Morley must use all of his coaching nous to try and capture the undeniable energy and electricity that often envelops pre-season training. On the player's side, it all comes down to hard work and dedication. Rigorous fitness testing combined with a constant focus on quality often produces an 'iron strengthens iron' ethos amongst the team. To reinforce this mentality, Morley has purposefully placed an extra emphasis on team bonding and morale this season.
"We are team-focused and team-inspired. My role in that is to ensure that we get the little things right, to ensure that lines of communication are positive and strong. I like to make sure every player understands their role, feels a part of the team chemistry and that we're all on this journey together. We go through the ups together and we go through the downs together. We're a CBU family, that's how we've built our program and that's how we've built our culture."
One player who is sure to arrive back at CBU in game-ready condition is fourth-year Business Administration student and U-Sports first-team All-Canadian, Peter Schaale. The commanding central defender represented Halifax Wanderers 21 times this season after being selected in the first round of the inaugural Canadian Premier League draft. Having turned down a professional contract with the Wanderers in order to complete his education at CBU, Schaale has now set his sights on avenging last year's U-Sports national championship loss.
"How we lost the final last year, that has left a bitter feeling. My personal goals are the same as the team, to win the AUS and move on to nationals. Honestly, I expect to win it this year. We have a strong team and we shouldn't be afraid to show confidence."
The 2018 AUS MVP seemingly had no issues adjusting to the Canadian Premier League and has come to recognise his time in Halifax as a learning experience that will ultimately benefit his Capers teammates in the upcoming season.
"I definitely learned a lot on the pitch. You have a lot less time, everything has to be more accurate and you have to minimise errors. That experience has helped my game and I will try to bring that back to CBU. The season we played in Halifax wasn't as successful as we hoped and I actually learned a lot from that as well. I learned to keep my head down and keep working in practice. I think that's what our season is going to be about, we lost the final last year to Montreal and now it's time for us to get our heads down and work on a few things both in the pre and regular season so we are prepared for play-offs and nationals."
For Head Coach Deano Morley, Schaale's commitment to his schooling and the Capers soccer program stands as a testament to the importance of education and the positive atmosphere that seems to permeate the hallways at CBU.
"I think it's just so important. It shows the integrity and importance of education and I think it shows that the players love the soccer environment we have here. That sets a tone for people across the country to follow."
Another player determined to reclaim national gold this season is Preston-born AUS All-Star and U-Sports first-team All-Canadian, Cory Bent. When speaking about the devastating overtime defeat in last year's national championship game, Bent appears keen to focus on the lesson rather than the loss.
"I think we learned a lot from that defeat. Mainly about ourselves, it was a tough loss to take. We were down a man and I thought we fought well throughout the game obviously until the goal in extra time. I think what we learned about ourselves, first and foremost, was that we really can do it. We learned a lot about our character, who we are as a team and our identity as Capers."
Hoping to take those experiences into the new season, Bent is confident that his team can overturn the fine margins that caused so much hurt last year and come away with the gold this time around.
"We're going for gold again. We take the season game by game and will hopefully end up in the national final, then we can assess the situation. Coach Deano is the hungriest I've seen him since I got here. He wants us to go and score more goals, he wants us to be an exciting team, which has always been the case but this year he wants to show it more than ever. That will transfer to the players and we're all raring to go. We all come in with expectations of ourselves and as a team so hopefully, by the time November comes around we are in a position to challenge for the national title again."
Despite sharing Bent's national ambitions, Coach Morley is keen to ensure his team don't disregard the AUS conference, describing it as his number one priority in 2019.
"I never look past any game. Every member of our playing staff knows that every Saturday and every Sunday is an AUS final. Our goals are crystal clear, we want to; remain undefeated at home, we want to be dangerous on the road and we want to win the AUS. The AUS title means more to this team than anything else. We're hosting it this year and we want to perform well in front of our home fans and then we'll look to nationals."
With their healthy mixture of realistic ambition and grounded determination, the CBU men's soccer team will undoubtedly go into the 2019 season as AUS conference favourites. Predicting anything beyond that becomes an exercise in guesswork but one thing is certain; the players are dedicated, the coaches are prepared and the team is hungry for more.
If you want to keep up to date with the number one nationally ranked men's soccer program this season, head to www.gocapersgo.ca for ticket information, roster updates and all the latest news. The men's team kick off their 2019 season with an Orange Out at home against the UNB Reds on September 7th at 3.15 pm. For more information about the Orange Out Home Opener visit www.cbu.ca/wow.
Josh Lines - For CBU Athletics