Just days after an ACAC Men’s Soccer Championship win, it’s back to business for the Kodiaks as they prepare to leave for CCAA national championships, beginning Nov. 6 in Oshawa, Ont.
Kodiaks captain Ben Knight predicted in the pre-season that this roster would be headed to nationals in November, and his team delivered.
“Like I said all season, we would get here,” Knight laughed. “Of course I believed it to say it, but it’s a different thing to actually go and do it.
“I was confident, but the fact that we got it done is pretty unbelievable. First time in history.”
The provincial title is the first in the Kodiaks’ men’s soccer program history.
The team finished second in the ACAC South Division with an 8-1-3 regular-season record, before winning three straight games to snag the provincial title in Edmonton over the weekend.
Lethbridge took down the Kings University Eagles 2-0 in their quarterfinal, then clinched a nationals berth when they beat the ACAC North Division first seeded NAIT Ooks 2-1, before blanking the Red Deer College Kings — a team that Lethbridge failed to beat in regular season action — 2-0 in the championship game on Sunday.
On Thursday the Kodiaks hit the field for the first time since the gold medal win, with their eyes now set on a bigger task.
“The way that we see it, we’re on house money going to nationals for the first time ever,” co-head coach Sean Carey said.
“We’re not going there just to be a part of it, we’re going there wanting to bring some hardware home.”
The squad will rely heavily on a veteran-laden, solid back end and goalkeeper Cody Ferguson, who allowed just seven regular season goals against, and conceded just one in three provincial playoff games.
“We’ve got probably the best goalkeeper — in college level — I’d say in the nation,” Knight said. “The guy is unbelievable.”
Last week, Ferguson was named to the ACAC All-Conference Team as the top goalkeeper in the south division. Three teammates joined Ferguson on that list — Knight, striker Jimmy Bukuru, and centerback Jaden Veluw — and the netminder credits the team in front of him with his success.
“It’s been going great, but honestly it’s a testament to my teammates,” Ferguson said. “They’ve got to go through 10 guys to get to me.”
As far as expectations, the Kodiaks hope they can surprise the teams from around the country.
“When we play well we’re very, very hard to beat,” Carey said, “especially the defensive end.”
With the feelings from Sunday’s provincial title win still fresh in their minds, the Kodiaks hope they can string together three more victories for an even bigger title.