CORNER BROOK Playing soccer in the clean fresh air with a trophy up for grabs is why Mark Fitzpatrick has no problem spending the Victoria Day weekend on the plush carpet at Wellington.
Fitzpatrick will suit up with the West Side Monarchs this week in the nine-team annual Corner Brook Spring Invitational Menâs Soccer Extravaganza at Wellington Street Sports Complex.
âI certainly wouldnât think about it as giving up my weekend because I couldnât think of anything better to do, especially with the nice forecast weâve got coming up for the next few days,â Fitzpatrick said of the annual kick-off event to the senior menâs soccer season.
The tournament gets underway Wednesday with two games slated for Wellington, while round-robin games will continue throughout the week until an A and B champion are declared Sunday afternoon. Teams hoping to claim bragging rights this time around include Curling Rangers, Hawks, Tactics, Under-18s, Under-16s, Stephenville, Gander and Grand Bank.
Fitzpatrick said the kick-off event serves as a good warm-up for the regular season and allows all teams a chance to take a look at their rosters and see how they can improve their respective teams.
âWeâre really looking forward to getting out and having a bit of fun and itâs a great way to get yourself loosened up and to ease into the season,â he said.
Fitzpatrick was a member of the Monarchs Black squad that claimed the championship trophy in the Corner Brook Molson Menâs Indoor Soccer League a few weeks ago.
Now, he wants to hoist a trophy on the artificial grass.
âAfter winning the indoor title we want to keep rolling and keep the momentum going right into the regular season and hopefully we can put another trophy in our cabinet and lead into another successful outdoor season,â he said, noting playing on the smooth surface at Wellington will be nice.
Looking at the roster in the early going, it appears the Monarchs will have its core group back again this year, but Fitzpatrick hinted the team is also hoping to secure the services of an unnamed player from another roster before the dust is settled. He also likes the youngsters thrown into the mix this season.
âThereâs not a lot of changes, which is a good thing for us,ââhe said. âWe had a really strong group last year. Weâve improved a lot over the last couple of years picking up a few players here and there who are meshing and gelling really well with the group we got.â
âWeâve also got a couple of young guys coming in who are going to give us a nice injection of speed and energy which is something we need,ââhe added.
Meanwhile, Nick Park of the Hawks said the tournament will provide the team with a chance to get a few kicks at the ball and see what kind of group has been assembled for this season.
âWeâre just going to take it one game a time,â Park said. âWeâre going to get all our subs in the game, get out for a run and work on our fitness for the rest of the season.â
The Hawks will have the same core group back in the fold again, but like other teams around the league, adding some talented graduates from the Under-18 program is the case for the Hawks.
âWeâve added a bit of youth to our team, so hopefully that will come in handy,ââhe said.
Known as a competitive group, the Hawks will be using the tournament as a means to take a closer look at the roster and who can play with who, but putting Ws on the board is always part of the plan.
âI think everyone is a contender you know,â Park said. âWeâre just going to go in and take it one game a time and if we come out of the round-robin with a pretty good record and weâre in Tier 1 ... weâll probably take it a little more serious, but if we drop down to the bottom tier weâll probably just make it a little bit more fun and get everyone else in a little bit more.â
The tournament opens Wednesday with the Tactics tangling with Stephenville at 7 p.m. and the Monarchs battling the Under-16s at 9 p.m. at Wellington.