The Dalhousie men’s soccer team is ready to put last year’s fourth consecutive semi-final loss behind them. For head coach Pat Nearing, this means getting off to a strong start to the season.
“In this league, the parity is such that any hiccup during the season will put you in the situation we were in,” says Nearing, referring to the team’s shaky start last season, which eventually led to them sneaking into the playoffs in 5th place. “A fast start to the season and getting yourself into playoff position early on takes the pressure off.”
According to Nearing, the team has adjusted its gameplay strategy to be more offence-oriented. This focus has been prevalent during the team’s training camp, and was on display during the team’s 2-0 preseason victory over Saint Mary’s University on August 30.
“On the defensive side of the ball we have veteran players and a very good keeper,” says Nearing. “We just needed to add a bit of goal-scoring to our lineup.”
The Tigers have a strong cadre of veterans returning to the team, including last season’s leading scorers Tyler Lewars and captain Nathan Rogers. The team has several impactful rookies coming in, including transfer Will Wright, who won the Atlantic College Athletics Association Rookie of the Year last season playing for the University of King’s College.
“The most impressive thing about it is the balance. The team is very well balanced, a lot of players who clicked very well together early on in training camp,” says Nearing. “The chemistry’s been unbelievable.”
One of the Tigers’ main recruits, however, will start the season rehabbing a knee injury. Jonathan Doucette, who last played for Nova Scotia during this summer’s Canada Games, is hoping to return around Thanksgiving.
Ultimately what matters most will be how the Tigers play during the regular season. Nearing feels that the team is ready to overcome their past inconsistencies and push for their first title since 2008.
“The team came into camp in good shape,” says Nearing. “We’ve got a few niggling injuries from summer soccer, but overall we’ve got a good healthy team.”