In the wide world of sports, there exists an expression that reads ‘you are only as good as your last game,’ and if that holds true, the 2002 Concordia men’s soccer team have their work cut out for them.
The Stingers did not lose a single game during the regular season last year, finishing with 9-0-3 record.
Things looked bright when the playoffs rolled around, as their first round opponents, UQAM, proved to be no problem earlier in the year, with Concordia winning both games handily.
However, a heartbreaking loss in a penalty shootout saw the Maroon and Gold eliminated without losing a game in regulation time all season long.
Despite the great record, returning players are still focused on last year’s quick exit from the playoffs.
“We would have liked to go a little further in the playoffs last year, it was a little disappointing,” said co-captain Mehdi Mourali, “especially after the great season we had. This is my last year, and I want to go all the way.”
Going all the way may prove to be difficult as the Stingers have lost seven starters, including former captain Frank Pons, CIS first team All-Canadian Fabien Thomas, and second team All-Canadians Stefan Takac and Xavier Renard.
These individuals were key ingredients to the success in 2001, which leaves some huge shoes to fill.
Head Coach Vladimir Pavlicik has begun working tirelessly with his assistants, Carlos Messina and new addition Jamie Sawler.
“I don’t think we will have the same talent we had last year, but we put in three weeks of hard work and things are starting to come together,” Pavlicik said.
“We will be close to where we were last year,” said co-captain Ammar Badawieh, the Stingers’ leading scorer and runner-up for the 2001 league MVP. “I wasn’t too impressed at the start of camp, but I am pleased with where we are now.”
Assistant Coach Carlos Messina believes that with the right game plan, the rebuilding process should be a successful one.
“We will have more fighters this year which will make up for the loss of talented players,” said Messina. “The team played their hearts out in the exhibition games.”
A couple of B.C. natives have shown the grit Messina was talking about early in camp.
“David Samash has a nice aptitude for the game, and Chris Higgin has been a pleasant surprise,” said Pavlicik. “I’m happy to see that they are ready to play.”
“We may be starting with as many as 7 rookies, and although we might not be as talented a team on paper as last year, it is a team game and our work rate should make up for any perceived deficiency.”
Although the season is approaching quickly, the team roster is not quite yet set in stone.
“People have been calling me and saying that it’s probably too late to come and try-out,” said Pavlicik, “but it’s never too late if you are a good player. We still have some cuts to make.”
The new Stingers should be exciting to watch with such a great attitude surrounding the team.
The coaching staff also believes that the positive atmosphere will be necessary with McGill fielding an exceedingly competitive squad in 2002 and revenge on the mind against UQAM.
The Stingers open their season on Friday, Sept. 13 at 9 p.m., at the University of Montreal.