By Dale Woodard on July 28, 2021.
For those wondering the objective of the Lethbridge College Kodiaks men’s soccer team as they head into the 2021 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season, there you go.
After a cancelled 2020 ACAC season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kodiaks return to the pitch this fall as the defending ACAC champions, having captured their first provincial gold medal in 2019.
Now, they want to do it again.
“We feel we’ve got the squad to do it,” said Kodiaks head coach Sean Carey Saturday afternoon as the Kodiaks held their ID camp at the Servus Sports Centre. “We’ve have a bunch of core returnees. On our back end we’ve got two fifth-years and a fourth-year.”
Among those returnees looking to duplicate 2019 and get back to nationals is fourth-year Kodiak midfielder Ben Knight.
“It’s really cool, it’s something the school has never done before with soccer,” said Knight. “So it’s going to be interesting. There’s going to be a target on our back the whole season. I think we’ll do well with that, a little chip on the shoulder.”
Saturday, however, was all about welcoming back the returnees and checking out the new blood that will infused into the 2021 roster as 38 players took the field on a warm Saturday afternoon.
“We’re extremely excited,” said Carey. “We only have a couple of weeks from the start of the season, but we’re excited to see some of these guys. We’ve been trying to recruit them for two or three years now. So it’s nice to see some of them out here playing and having the opportunity to just get back on the field again.”
It’s also a chance to shrug off the past 15 months of COVID lockdown that has kept everyone away.
“These guys want to play competitive soccer,” said Carey. “They want to be out with their friends. We’ve been lucky at the college, they’ve allowed us to train for the last two weeks. We’re just thrilled to be able to do this. Training camp starts in three weeks. It’s coming up fast and the season will be here before we know it.
“We’ve put together what we believe is a better squad than we had, depth-wise. We’ve got some young kids, which we love. It’s the future of the program.”
The trio of Kyeler Viani, Julio Vega and Vincent Dyck have caught the eyes of the coaching staff, said Carey.
“Their training sessions have been next to none. They work hard in training, they push themselves and they push the other players around them. We’re excited to see these guys. They could be pushing for starting spots this year. There’s no reason this year why they can’t be doing that. This will be a good way to see them right now and see what’s going on.”
Viani, a right back and another of the local contingent, has enjoyed the step up to the college level after signing earlier this month.
“It’s been great getting to know the guys and the intensity is definitely there,” he said. “I’m excited for the season to start and for the games to get underway. It’s definitely been a lot of fun.”
Viani looks to secure a roster spot at the ideal time as the team seeks to defend their ACAC crown.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m hoping we can bring the same level this year. It should be a lot of fun and we’ll do our best to defend it again.”
Knight likes what he sees from his younger teammates.
Even if the young guys are looking for the veteran’s roster spot.
“I think they’re pretty hungry, they’re basically all telling me they’re going to take my spot,” said Knight with a grin. “I’ll believe it when I see it. But it’s good. They’re coming in and they want to win and that’s what we want.”
They’ll need that can-do attitude if they wish for a gold medal repeat.
For his part, Knight is happy to take the leadership reins as part of that objective.
“It’s different this year knowing we’ve already been to the top of the mountain and we have to try and get there again, so it’s a little different on that front,” he said. “But it’s always good to help the kids grow. I’m becoming an old man playing this now, but it’s still fun to keep coming back.”
Carey stressed having a full roster of 25 this season despite the regular season being altered to six games.
“We want to make sure nobody is out of gas and we’re able to exchange positions on the field and have a good change out for that.”
A shortened season or not, preparation for the 2021 campaign – which begins Sept. 17 in Red Deer against the Kings – remains the same.
“At the end of the day, if we want to win the banner back again we’re going to have to be ready,” said Carey. “I see NAIT signed a lot of new players and there are some new coaches in our league. Olds, Red Deer and Medicine have new coaches. There are only, like, three of us left from the last time we had a season. There has been changeover all over the league. So we’re going to go a bit younger this year as well and have some new kids, it’s time for them to start taking the reins and stepping up.”
The Kodiaks men’s and women’s ACAC home opener is Sept. 19 when they host the Olds Broncos.
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