St. Stephen – “ The silver lining is good, but it’s time for a gold.”
Darren Higgins, coach of the St. Stephen Spartans boys soccer team said he hopes this is the year the squad can hang a provincial banner in the St. Stephen High School gymnasium.
For years, the Spartans have been a force to be reckoned with. The squad has played in the provincial final for the last two consecutive years – both times taking silver.
The Spartans are headed to Perth-Andover this weekend to compete in regionals; scheduled to meet host Southern Victoria (No. 1 in the West) at 10 a.m. The winner of that game will advance to meet the winner of a match-up between Rothesay High and defending AA champions Polyvalente Thomas-Albert, in a seeding match to take place later that afternoon.
SSHS to host provincials
Higgins said this year is the year to win the banner in more ways than one – for the first time in more than 15 years, St. Stephen High School will host the provincial final on Nov. 4.
“We just want to get provincials on our home field, and we’re in a good spot if we do – getting fans out, playing on home field advantage field and not the turf [field], would be awesome.”
No injuries heading into regionals
The Spartans are slated to head to regionals injury free – the first time since mid September. Grade 10 student Rylan Cloney will return after being sidelined (collarbone), while Shawn McGaw sat out with a hand injury.
As for the must-win match-up with Southern Victoria, Higgins said he doesn’t know much about their squad this year, but that may work to their advantage.
“We don’t really know much about them, which isn’t a bad thing – we tend to play down to teams we think we can easily beat. I think we’ll be fine; we’ve got the leadership in [co-captains and seniors] Alex [Hart] and Curtis [Snow].
“They know what it takes to get there again; I won’t have to motivate them too much. We’ve just got to go out and play our game and control our ball, and bury the chances when we get ‘em. We’re pumped; we’ve been waiting for this since we lost [provincials] last year.”
Hart, who plays centre mid, said despite a mid-season “rough patch”, the squad ended the season strong, and is looking forward to the regional playoff Saturday.
The senior, like his coach, noted the return of Cloney will be a boost.
“That will be huge for our team. He’s an extremely skilled player – he helps us on offensive and defensive ends, and is a really smart player.”
Though the Spartans need to get through regionals first, the scene would be set for a storybook end to the season, something Hart said he hopes the team can pull off with provincials being hosted at the school.
“That would be a great story – just to have the third year actually win it at school.”
Taylor Hastey, a Grade 11 student who bounces between centre back and centre mid position, said regionals are something he’s looking forward to, despite facing a morning must-win game – with provincials on the line.
“You’re always a little anxious before a game as important as regionals, but we’re looking forward to it,” Hastey said, and though the last two years the Spartans settled for silver – Hastey said he felt the experience can be used to their advantage.
“I think it will help. Most players on other teams maybe don’t have that [edge].”