[Editor's note: Dan Hayfield scored twice, while Tane Caubo added a single, in a 3-0 win over Moncton Oct. 10,]
Heading into the season, Graham Kennedy said one of the keys to success for the St. F.X. X-Men soccer team would be health, considering the program would be carrying its smallest roster in his more than decade-long tenure.
Although the injury bug has bitten – hard – the veteran squad has played its way into the top half of the Atlantic University Sports (AUS) standings, vying for a post-season bye, with the regular campaign winding down.
“We are a very thin team,” the X-Men head coach said, noting this season has also provided the most “serious injuries” for the program.
Senior midfielder Will Warren tops of the list of hobbled X-Men; he is out for the season with a knee injury.
“He was having a phenomenal season,” Kennedy said.
Senior forward Quincy Meh, who his head coach noted was coming off a “stellar summer” of soccer, is also out.
“We hope to get him back soon and provide us with useful minutes,” Kennedy said.
Junior midfielder Nick Aquino has also been on the shelf for a handful of matches.
“He is such a great playmaker, so he will help us a lot,” Kennedy said of his anticipated return.
With the injuries have come changes.
“We have had to modify our formation – our press – a whole lot of things,” the head coach explained.
Several players have stepped up, including freshman forward Logan Harrington.
“He has done a great job,” Kennedy said.
There is also 18-year-old Jordan Rao, a sophomore who has spelled Aquino in the midfield.
“Jordan has been really impressive,” Kennedy added.
He also praised fifth-year senior Ben Herringer, who has made the transition from striker to the deep midfield.
“His passing and receiving, especially in small spaces, has been exceptional,” Kennedy said.
Noting Herringer makes few mistakes, he added, the veteran has been a “huge, huge piece” of the success for the X-Men.
After hitting the road to face the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus Oct. 10 (results were unavailable at press time), the X-Men will travel to Sydney (Oct. 18) to battle the rival – and defending national champion – Cape Breton University Capers.
Their home-finale opponent will be the Memorial Sea-Hawks (Oct. 20), at St. F.X. Stadium, with the Acadia Axemen hosting the X-Men (Oct. 25) in Wolfville to end the regular campaign.
“We are good enough, but it is going to be about knowing that we are good enough,” Kennedy offered, when asked about keys to making a playoff run.
He said the X-Men have to guard against “looking back” at past post-season disappointments.
“We can be our own worst enemy. We have to focus on the present,” Kennedy added.
He noted the focus is on finishing in the top-two in the regular season, which secures a playoff bye, and then winning a semi-final match that would clinch a spot in the U Sports championship tournament.
“I think that we are the fastest team in the league and we can beat anybody,” Kennedy said.