The thrill of victory was a feeling that escaped the Quest University Kermodes men's soccer team in 2012.
But head coach Jonas Worth said his players have returned to Squamish healthy, hungry and more mature than last year.
The Kermodes were filled with a number of first- and second-year players last year, but Worth said the experience of 2012 and a summer of hard work has his squad looking vastly improved.
“It's the first time we've had the majority of the team as upper classmen since I've been here,” said Worth, who has been directing the team since 2011. “That was always going to take two or three years to happen after I took over and we started from scratch. The returning guys and their ability to be fighting for starting roles when some of them didn't factor into the lineup has made for an intense pre-season for us — it's been more intense than any season I've had prior to now.”
Worth said he's been impressed by the progress several players have made over the summer.
“JB McEown was a first year last year for us and he got so much better over the summer,” he said. “Like all first years, he took some time to adjust to the pace of our league but he worked hard in the summer. Charles Impey [fourth year] is a guy who's a lot more serious this year, he's not so much of a joker this year. And Evan Cross is obsessed with getting back to soccer after surgery.”
Worth also praised the pre-season work of captain Derek McKinnon and “Ironman” Ben Schager, who played every minute of every single game last year.
Another big change for the Kermodes is behind the bench. Aside from Worth, it's an all new staff. Arriving at Quest are: assistant coaches Chris Laxton and Sergio Tortajada, along with goalkeeping coach Paul Pederson.
Worth said he's thrilled with his new staff.
“This year we have assistants who are equally capable and mature as I am,” he said. “Laxton comes from a prominent B.C. soccer family, works with all the big clubs and has just as many qualifications as I do. Sergio has worked with clubs in Spain for eight years, has UEFA Level 1 coaching certification and brings a different dynamic to our club. Paul works heavily with the Vancouver Fusion and is super qualified.
“It's nice to be able to step back and do less mentoring and more learning from my fellow coaches and watching our players develop.”
Worth said he plans to shake up the club's formation for 2013. For the past number of years, Quest has used a 4-3-3 but he said the Kermodes will use a number of different formations based on how the game is going.
“We were kind of stuck in the 4-3-3 the last couple of years and it made use easy to predict,” he said. “So far this year we've used three different formations and many different lineups.”
He said the team is moving away from dribbling and maintaining possession and moving more to a team that uses quick ball movement.
“This league is a league of quick ball movement and movement off the ball,” he said. “We've adjusted and begun to move the ball more quickly but we also have guys that can take opponents on one on one when they have to.”
Quest opens the season at home this weekend with a pair of games. Douglas College comes to town on Saturday (Sept. 7) and the Kwantlen Eagles battle the Kermodes on Sunday (Sept. 8). Both games kick off at 3 p.m. The Pacwest bronze medal champion women's team will hit the field on both days at 1 p.m.
Worth encouraged Squamish residents to check out the games and said this year`s team should be fun to watch.
“The atmosphere will be as intense as ever this year,” he said. “If people want to see mature soccer, this is the year. Expect a little bit more of an entertaining style of soccer as opposed to just kick and run.”
For more details on the team, visit www.questkermodes.ca.