BY ANDREW BENNY
Conestoga’s men’s varsity soccer team has been struggling to find their winning stride over the last few years. The outdoor seasons have featured an abundance of losses and the team itself has undergone a number of staff changes, including the head coach position, now filled by Andy Pownall, a past Ontario College Athletic Association and Kitchener District Soccer League player with more than 20 seasons of coaching experience.
And although the Condors have seen significant success in indoor soccer, a winter tournament sport, it hasn’t fully translated over to the fall season, despite the roster consisting of many of the same players. But Pownall believes that with the way the team is now advancing and the recent growth seen in the college’s athletic programs, this is going to change.
“We are building the program at Conestoga and we have a lot of first-year players, so we are developing the team as a whole. We are using the indoor season to build both chemistry and technical (ability). The team has struggled to win the last few seasons, and we hope to change that by getting a few victories this year,” Pownall said.
The indoor team has already played in two tournaments in 2017 and with a record of five wins and three losses, they seem to now be heading down the right track. But that’s not all it is going to take if Conestoga hopes to be competing for trophies in the future, according to Safi Ullah, a varsity player and business administration management student.
“We have a good team this year and we can compete with the best colleges in Ontario. We just finished second at the Condors’ tournament, but if we want to truly improve varsity soccer at our college then better facilities need to be provided for the players. We practise in the gym once a week and it doesn’t help us at all,” Ullah said.
Although acquiring turf fields may be impossible by the end of this season, Pownall has implemented other ways to help the team improve. Players have been paired with athletic therapists and strength and fitness programs have been put in place for the players as a way to ensure they are in the best possible shape.
“We are trying to focus on commitment and building the team as a unit. Positivity and hard work from both the players and the coaching staff is going to help grow the team. I am looking forward to seeing the players develop over the winter and put that hard work to the test in September and earn a win or two. I want the team to compete in every game,” Pownall said.
The team hopes to continue its winning ways through the remainder of the winter tournaments and well into the fall outdoor season.
The journey will continue when they head to Sheridan College for the next tournament on Feb. 18, but won’t finish until they once again start to do well in both seasons, something that hasn’t happened since a bronze medal finish in 2011.
Pownall said the team is always looking for quality players so if a student knows of anyone, he asks you to encourage them to join the team.