Star file photo
Ethan Allen prepares for action at the Wellington Street Sports Complex soccer pitch earlier this summer.
The rebirth of a Challenge Cup soccer team on the west coast is apparently making an impact on the varsity level.
When Stephenville’s Tiuri Lomond managed to survive the final cut for the Memorial University Sea-Hawks men’s soccer team last year, he was the first west coaster to crack the roster since Greg Keats finished a three-year stint with the team in 2010.
This year, three west coast players will be donning the Sea-Hawks jersey. Lomond is returning, while Ethan Allen and Logan McIsaac will make their debuts.
“I think it’s definitely got to do with Challenge Cup,” said Allen, who played with Steers Insurance Corner Brook United FC this summer, the club’s second season back in the provincial fold, along with Lomond and McIsaac.
“West coast players are playing at a higher level now, so we’re getting better,” he said. “And we’re getting that exposure, which is really good for us.”
Allen, a wingback, said he wasn’t sure if he would be successful in his attempt to make the team, but as the numbers at practice decreased, he realized his chances did the opposite.
“Every practice I got a little more confident because I was still around,” he said.
As much as Challenge Cup play was a different animal than playing in the men’s senior league, Allen believes the varsity game is yet another step up.
“It’s faster,” said the 18-year-old Corner Brooker. “The fitness is a little bit better.”
McIsaac noted the difference in preparation, as the team gets set to open its season against Dalhousie today and Sunday.
The Sea-Hawks have footage of Dalhousie games from last season, so they’ve been holding video sessions to familiarize themselves with the team’s tendencies.
“We can see how they played last year and hopefully it’s a lot of the same stuff they’ll be doing this year,” he said.
McIsaac, a striker out of Stephenville who was recently named the Challenge Cup league’s top rookie, said he felt pretty good entering the first try-out and expected to make the team.
It helped that Lomond gave he and Allen a heads up on what to expect going in.
“Everything there was to expect, he told me,” McIsaac, 17, said.
Both Allen and McIsaac said the Sea-Hawks coaches have made it clear that making the playoffs isn’t just the goal, but the expectation. In fact, the desire this year is to improve upon last season’s 7-5-1 record and fifth-seeding for the post-season.
“We definitely want to compete (for the Atlantic University Sport championship),” said Allen.
As rookies, neither player may see a whole lot of time on the field, at least at first.
McIsaac, who is in his first semester of police studies, said he’s hoping he’ll be able to improve his game and eventually make an impact on the team.
Allen agreed with that, but also saw the value in just being on the roster, even if he never plays a game.
“Training with these guys is a really good experience,” he said. “It’ll make us even better for next season.”
Attempts to reach Lomond for comment were unsuccessful by press time.