If the Stingers thought goals were difficult to come by last season, the task will be even more difficult this year.
Concordia’s men’s soccer team will face the challenge of trying to replace the offensive fire power of recently graduated, All-Canadian Matthjis Eppinga who led the Stingers in scoring last year. The team had the second worst offence in the RSEQ last season, scoring only 15 goals. Eppinga factored in on over half of the team’s scoring, recording seven goals and two assists.
The Stingers also surrendered the most goals in the conference last season (33) and if they have any hope of competing this year they will have to sharpen their play on the defensive end, but once again they will be missing a key piece from last season: team captain and defender David Cerasuolo, like Eppinga has also graduated.
“We expect to cut back on our goals against considerably and that should translate to more victories,” said head coach Lloyd Barker.
However, with two key players of last year’s team gone the coach acknowledged this year’s team will need a much more balanced effort and simply can’t expect one or two individuals to fill the voids.
“All (players) need to continue improving to a more effective level than the year before,” Barker said.
Another area that Barker has focused on in preparation for the season is team fitness.
“This year the team will be fitter than any other team I’ve coached,” he said. “We are preparing to play a high tempo game.”
Though last season was fraught with disappointment, a lot was learned about what it takes to compete in the always competitive RSEQ (which last season featured three teams ranked in the top 10 nationally).
Primarily the Stingers learned about the level of focus and intensity needed from the first minute to the 90th in order to compete.
“The game is played from the opening whistle to the closing whistler,” said Barker. “We cannot take time off and have mental lapses during the game. We also learned that players need to produce consistently and at a high level in order to compete.”
Barker has set the bar much higher for this year’s edition of the team saying the goal is “playoffs and some type of silverware.” He does not want his squad, though, to simply be a team that bottom feeds off weaker opponents.
“We circle every game on the calender because we believe we can win every game. We are equally disappointed with every loss or draw.”
Concordia opens the regular season at home Friday, Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m. The Stingers will be playing host to the Laval Rouge et Or. The Rouge et Or finished first in the conference last year and will be a good measuring stick to see whether or not the Stingers will sink or swim this season.