CORNER BROOK Stephenville suffered from a dreadful start on Thursday night, but hey, it’s still a start.
The West Side Monarchs defeated the out-of-town entrant in the Corner Brook Molson Senior Men’s Soccer League Spring Invitational tournament 4-0 at the Wellington Street Sports Complex, the first action a Stephenville-based senior squad has seen on the artificial turf in nearly two years.
Eddy Traverse scored twice for the Monarchs in the win, while Chris Casey and Jeff Organ provided the other markers.
Traverse said the victory should help the Monarchs beyond this tournament, as they’ll still be seeking their first regular season triumph when league play resumes next week.
“It’s a morale-booster,” he said. “Hopefully it gets us going.”
Since Stephenville is rolling with a lineup cobbled together specifically for this tournament, Traverse said his group wasn’t lacking any confidence heading into the game.
“I thought we would probably get the win,” he said.
“We played good the whole game.”
Organ’s opening goal stood up as the winner, the result of a flubbed back pass from a Stephenville defender which bounced past goalkeeper Chris Dohaney and presented Organ with the gift of a wide-open net.
A little rust should be expected of the Stephenville contingent.
The club’s last match at the Wellington pitch was Aug. 16, 2010, a 9-1 loss to the Under-18 team at the time. In that game, coincidentally, it was Traverse pouring in four goals for the under-agers. Add his offensive output from Thursday night and he’s fast becoming a real Stephen-villain.
Despite how it ultimately ended for them then, Stephenville wasn’t that far removed from respectability — they made the league final in both 2006 and 2008, losing to the Curling Rangers both times.
Their 2010 season was a struggle, however, as they were habitually short on players and it soon became evident the end was near, especially as guys like Steve Borden and Greg Keats, the ones who really helped with the organizational side of the equation, were unable to dedicate the time and energy to save the team due to family and school commitments.
Keats is back in Stephenville this summer, with an education degree and a new teaching job in tow. He immediately began working the phones to put together a squad for this Spring Invitational tournament, though he knew a full-fledged entrant in the league wasn’t feasible this summer.
“We really didn’t have enough of a pool of players to say we could do it and always have bodies for the games,” said Keats, who was actually the lone goalscorer in the aforementioned 9-1 loss two years ago. “But this is a start.”
He’s hopeful he can schedule a few exhibition games against men’s league teams during their off weeks, to keep the group he has compiled for this tournament together.
“Just to keep us playing and keep it growing,” he said.
The minor soccer program in Stephenville is strong and will last four months longer than usual this year, according to Keats. He cites the number of good young players, both male and female, in the under-14 and under-16 divisions as another quality reason to keep senior soccer alive in the town.
“They’ve got to have something to play when they’re done minor soccer.”
Even the team formed for this tournament is fueled by young blood, as the roster boasts a number of high school kids.
“Some of them are going to start university now, which means they’ll probably be home every summer,” Keats said. “So that’s looking good for the future of the team.”
He recalled a not-too-distant past where Stephenville was a focal point of west coast soccer, with Corner Brook sometimes playing the role of also-ran.
“It’s switched now due to the facilities here and everything,” he said. “We want to bring the curve back even, we need to get back on the map.”
With that in mind, he’s hoping for the support of the town in putting some work in on the two fields that see the most use in Stephenville. Some rough patches in need of repair could easily lead to injury, making them somewhat dangerous to play on.
“We’re looking forward to support from the community and we’re hoping they take notice that we’re really trying to get something going here again,” Keats said.
He was unfazed by the 4-0 loss, even though he joked he never believed the Monarchs would be good enough to beat his team. A friendly jab, as he’s actually playing for the Monarchs during the senior league’s regular season this year.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” he said of the defeat. “But I was expecting that we’d have fun.
“The biggest thing for me is to show the interest is there,” he added. “We want to be involved in west coast soccer, from the minor program all the way up.”