No sec­ond chances

Lau­ren­tians will need three straight wins to cap­ture soccer crown

The Southern Gazette - - SUMMER FESTIVAL - BY PAUL HERRIDGE

A third-place fin­ish wasn’t what the St. Lawrence La­batt Lau­ren­tians were hop­ing for from the Mol­son Chal­lenge Cup pro­vin­cial men’s soccer reg­u­lar sea­son, but they’ll take it.

The team wasn’t good enough at times, ac­cord­ing to head coach Derek Strang.

“The last month could have been a lit­tle bet­ter,” he told The South­ern Gazette Wed­nes­day. “I think we lost too many points, but that’s cer­tainly our fault.”

Ac­tu­ally, the Lau­ren­tians lost only once in Au­gust – 1-0 to Feil­dians on Aug. 14 in St. John’s – but it was a game in which three points would have helped se­cure sec­ond place and a chance to avoid a three-match fi­nal weekend dur­ing this weekend’s play­offs in St. Lawrence.

The Lau­ren­tians tied Holy Cross twice dur­ing the month and posted a win against C.B.S. The team won its fi­nal two games of the sea­son at home Aug. 20-21 against Cor­ner Brook.

St. Lawrence fin­ished with 43 points on the year, two less than Mount Pearl, who so­lid­i­fied the matchups for the open­ing round of the play­offs with a 1-0 win over the Cru­saders Aug. 20. Holy Cross took the top spot with 52 points while Feil­dians were fourth with 39.

St. Lawrence will need a win against Feil­dians Fri­day and an­other vic­tory Satur­day over the loser of the game be­tween Holy Cross and Mount Pearl to se­cure a berth in the Sunday fi­nal.

“It was a tight sea­son,” Strang said. “It was a good sea­son for the fans for sure. It’s been a long time since it’s been that tight. I think ev­ery­body’s ex­pect­ing the same come the fi­nal weekend.”

The two finalists for the pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship ad­vance to Oc­to­ber’s na­tion­als in St. John’s.

St. Lawrence posted two wins, a loss and a tie in four games against Feil­dians dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. Strang is ex­pect­ing an even game be­tween the two next week.

“I think it’s go­ing to be a com­pet­i­tive game. The boys are look­ing for­ward to tak­ing the field on their own turf. We feel good about it, but I’m sure Feil­dians feel the same,” he said.

“They’re def­i­nitely a tough team. It’s been close games all year. We’re hop­ing for the best and we’re pre­par­ing for the best. We’re pre­par­ing to do well on Fri­day night, to be hon­est. We’re not look­ing to Satur­day yet. We’re not look­ing to Sunday. We’re look­ing one game at a time.”

The Lau­ren­tians trained from Thurs­day through Monday in St. John’s, Strang said. They’ll con­vene again to­mor­row for a cou­ple of lighter prac­tices in St. Lawrence.

The Lau­ren­tians have needed a pair of play­off wins in each of the last two sea­sons to make it to the fi­nal. They’ve run out of gas in the third game on each oc­ca­sion, how­ever, both 2-0 losses against Holy Cross.

Strang said the team is deeper, fit­ter and in a bet­ter po­si­tion if they can make it that far this time.

He also feels play­ing at home will be an ad­van­tage for the Lau­ren­tians. St. Lawrence was un­de­feated at Cen­ten­nial Field dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. The team’s most re­cent pro­vin­cial ti­tle in 2013 was also the last time the fi­nal weekend was held in the Burin Penin­sula town.

“When you’re stand­ing in that dress­ing room and wait­ing to get out over that line, I think it’s an ex­tra-spe­cial feel­ing for some of the boys, and know­ing that the community is be­hind them, we’re hop­ing that will give us some­thing dif­fer­ent,” Strang said.

CYN­THIA FAR­RELL PHOTO

Feil­dians goal­keeper Mike De­long dives to make a save dur­ing a Mol­son Chal­lenge Cup pro­vin­cial men’s soccer game against St. Lawrence at Cen­ten­nial Field on July 16. The two teams meet again in St. Lawrence Fri­day for the play­offs. The Lau­ren­tians won the reg­u­lar sea­son matchup with two wins, a loss and a tie.

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