As the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) soccer championship wrapped up on Nov. 3 in Sydney, Cape Breton, the host Cape Breton University Capers captured both the men’s and women’s trophies. Meanwhile, both Dalhousie University Tigers teams bowed out of playoffs in quarter final action.
On the men’s side, Dalhousie hoped to improve on their 2018 performance, when they fell to Cape Breton in the semifinals. However, this season wasn’t their year either.
The Tigers faced their Halifax rivals the Saint Mary’s University Huskies in the quarter finals. An early goal by Tigers striker Jacob Bolton was cancelled out by a Huskies goal by Tyler Dorey minutes later.
“It looked like we were going to do really well, and something switched off,” says Tigers head coach Pat Nearing. “That gave the momentum to Saint Mary’s. They gladly took it.”
Dal was missing many of their starting players, like veteran defender Jeff Arkin who was suspended with a previous red card, and also sustained injuries to key players.
In the closing moments of the game, Neil Spires scored for the Huskies, snatching away the Tiger’s hopes of a spot in the championship match.
“We had six players graduating. To graduate after underperforming in the playoffs —that’s tough for everybody,” says Nearing.
However, the Huskies success was checked by a powerful Cape Breton men’s team the following game. The Capers turned up the tempo after a scoreless first half and won 2-0, then added a fourth consecutive AUS championship to their trophy room after scoring two against the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in the championship game on Nov. 3.
But Dal’s season wasn’t a disappointment by any means, finishing the season with a respectable 6-2-4 record.
Nearing won the AUS coach of the year award: he’s been Dal’s head coach for 21 years. Third-year striker Gracious Kasheke won the AUS Student-Athlete Community Service Award. Nearing says “he’s a well-rounded player: he starts games for us, and his community service resume is second to none.”
Dalhousie’s women’s team fared no better in the championship weekend. In 2018, they lost in the quarter finals to the Memorial University of Newfoundland Seahawks.
This year, they put up a better fight. In a quarter-final match against the University of New Brunswick Reds, the Tigers pulled ahead in the first half with a converted cross from striker Kaitlyn Woodworth.
However, in the second half “we lost concentration” says Head Coach Cindy Tye.
UNB scored two goals early in the second half and the Tigers scored on their own net, slipping out of the tournament with a 3-1 loss.
“This is a group that felt they came a long way this year,” says Tye. “it’s tough when it all comes down to one game. But it doesn’t negate the progress they made.”
Dalhousie’s Sydney Kenney was the AUS Student Athlete Community Service award winner.
The CBU Capers were the eventual winners on the women’s side, as they defeated the Seahawks 2-0 in semi-final action and came from behind to win 3-2 against the Acadia University Axewomen.
It’s the Capers’ third consecutive conference title, and 11th in the team’s history. Alliyah Rowe, AUS rookie of the year, was a major asset to the team throughout the final match. She assisted on their goal as the Capers drew level before half-time, and scored twice in the second half to win the game.
Cape Breton dynasty
With Cape Breton winning the league, they headed to the U Sports national championships Nov. 7-10.
The past few years, both the men’s and women’s teams have dominated the AUS conference. Players like Peter Schaale on the men’s side and Alliyah Rowe for the women are stand outs in every match.
Dylan Matthias, an AUS and Canadian Premier League blogger (and former Dalhousie Gazette editor-in-chief), says the CBU’s success comes from an advanced coaching and recruitment system. Many of their players are international students hailing from European countries which offer advanced soccer academies.
“Cape Breton are built to be a team on another level,” says Matthias. “They’re built to be a national contender, and they are.”