Kings going to earn way into playoffs despite automatic berth
One thing the RDC Kings don’t have to worry about as they prepare to open the Alberta Colleges Men’s Soccer League season Saturday at Lakeland College in Lloydminster is making the playoffs.
The Kings will host the ACAC championships, earning an automatic bye into the six-team playoff.
However, Kings head coach Steve Fullarton isn’t about to let his squad coast through the regular season.
“The nice thing is it takes some pressure off the guys as they don’t have to worry about the playoffs, but with that said, we want to qualify the proper way . . . we want to earn the right to be in the playoffs.”
The Kings, who play out of the South Division, play a 10-game regular schedule.
“It’s nice we can use those 10 games to prepare for the playoffs and go in with some momentum,” added Fullarton, who has 10 veterans, six rookies and one former player in camp.
Stefan Dugas returns after being away for a couple of seasons and will start in goal. Fullarton had six players back on defence with four returning in the middle.
“We should be strong on defence, but we’re working hard on getting more bodies into the box up front and scoring more goals,” he said. “We have a good mix of youth and experience. We have a physically strong team with lots of pace and technical ability.”
League all-star Patrick Sweiger returns as a defender along with Greg Reddekopp, Logan Grenier, Dillon Lehman, Andrew Jevne and Gurjit Sandhu. Jevne is looking for a strong season after missing most of last year with an injury.
In the midfield all-star Geng Thian, Cale Jacobs, Hayden Slaymaker and Haydn MacLean are returning.
Midfielder Chase Grenier of Olds is one of the impressive new faces.
“Technically he’s a gifted player who is very creative and has shown well in the preseason,” said Fullarton.
Midfielders Evan Foerster and Jeremy Gopal and forward Nolan Hamilton and TJ Johnson are newcomers from Red Deer with midfielder Adrian Ramirez from Mexico.
“The new guys are all quick and add pace to the team,” added Fullarton.
Meanwhile, the RDC Queens head coach Dave Colley has nine veterans and nice rookies on their roster heading into Lakeland. Colley returns as the head man after working as an assistant coach last season with David McCarthy.
“This is a different team for me,” Colley said. “When I took over from Jerry (Gerling) two years ago I have a veteran lineup, while last year Dave brought most of his major league players with him. This year it’s a bit of a rebuilding season, but then even the new girls have a lot of experience at the U18 or major league.”
Jesse Stewart, who backed up Lauren Good, returns as the main keeper while the defence will be anchored by Shannon Middlemiss and fifth-year Amber Regnier.
The rest of the defence consists of rookies in Tatiana Aspillaga and Cori van der Voort of Red Deer, Teagan Donald of Rocky Mountain House and Adi Moyer of Lacombe. Both van der Voort and Moyer played with the Red Deer Major League squad.
The midfield has the majority of the experience with Sarah Fulmer, Kayla Keenan and Allison Walsh all in their fifth season and Brianne Boychuk in her fourth year. Claire Wallace and Kristi Lem are in their second year, although Wallace can also play up front. Two of the top recruits in the middle are Tara Berger, who played with Southwest United in Edmonton, and Alana Rehman of Red Deer.
Terra Salmon of Stettler, who played Major League in Red Deer, can play either in the middle or up front.
One of the top recruits up front is Paula Dadensky of Stettler, who led the Red Deer City Major League squad, in scoring. Hallee Peter of Camrose, who played with the Red Deer Renegades U18 team, is also new up front.
The Queens played four exhibition games, finishing off with a 0-0 tie against Edmonton Victoria and 8-1 against the Edmonton Blizzard. They also played Mount Royal University, who are in the CIS this year, and lost 6-1, although they had only 11 players, including four veterans.
“That was early and it was good for the new girls,” said Colley. “Actually we played fairly well as we were only down 2-1 at the half.”
The RDC squads see their first home action Sept. 15 when they host SAIT. They host Olds College on Sept. 16. The women kick off at noon with the men to follow both days.