The McGill Martlets’ 2013 campaign was nothing short of a success as the team advanced to the CIS Championships for the first time since 2005 and earned a fourth place finish, losing to the Queen’s Golden Gaels in the bronze medal matchup.
In the five seasons prior to last year’s RSEQ championship winning effort the Martlets had been stymied in the conference semifinals. First-year Head Coach Matthew Stephens was able to guide McGill past the Concordia Stingers and on to the National Championships, but will be hard pressed to match the exemplary performance from his first year.
The primary challenge will be to replace fly-half Brianna Miller, last season’s CIS Player-of-the-Year. Miller orchestrated the high-flying Martlet attack and leaves as a three-time RSEQ all-star, two-time RSEQ most valuable player, and as the team’s all-time leading scorer. The squad also needs to replace Deanna Foster and Julia White, two members of the CIS all-tournament squad. Foster, a junior wing, tore her ACL while playing with the under-20 National Team.
Despite the losses the squad does have plenty of talent returning, including standouts Caroline Suchorski, a senior centre, and Emily Barber, a senior forward. The two provided veteran leadership and a scoring punch in exhibition games against Queen’s and Western, which the Martlets split. Suchorski also scored 19 points in McGill’s 54-27 victory over the Carleton Ravens on Sunday in the regular season opener. The Martlets continue their quest to repeat against rival Concordia on Sept. 10.
After 15 years as head coach of the Martlet Soccer team, Marc Mounicot was named head coach of the Redmen Soccer team prior to the 2013 season. His first year as bench boss was a modest success. The Redmen finished with a 4-5-3 regular record, which earned them a fourth place finish and a trip to the RSEQ Semi-Finals, where they lost to the Université de Montréal. This was a solid result considering the disastrous 2012 campaign, which resulted in the team being forced to forfeit 11 of their 12 matches due to use of an ineligible player.
An encouraging sign looking forward is the squad’s heavy youth presence. In 2013 the roster contained a number of key players in their first and second year of eligibility. The Redmen attack will flow through sophomore forward and former Montreal Impact player Massimo Di Ioia, and freshman Antoine Chauvel, a native of Paris, France. The two have impressed in the pre-season and will need to be in form this year if McGill is to succeed.
With a 2-0 record in exhibition matches and a 3-1-1 showing in five scrimmages, the Redmen look to be headed in the right direction. Their season begins Friday Sept. 5th at 8:00 p.m. in Molson Stadium against the Sherbrooke Vert et Or.
The Martlets will enter this season looking to improve upon a successful 2013 campaign that saw them fall to Laval in the RSEQ semi-finals. Though the team will be comprised largely of freshmen and sophomore players, second-year head coach Jose-Luis Valdes will provide a sense of stability and continuity that was missing last season. Also returning are fifth-year veterans Meghan Bourque and Hannah Kirby, who should prove valuable in unlocking the vast potential of this young squad and will anchor the team’s elite midfield.
With nine newcomers, there are growing pains to overcome, but the Martlets aren’t too worried.
“There’s a lot of offensive power among the rookies, [and we’re] excited to see them prove themselves this season,” junior defender Zoe Fasoulakis said when asked about the influx of new talent. “We had a challenging pre-season but the team has really bonded together over the past few weeks.”
McGill went 2-2 in pre-season play, finishing with a convincing 7-0 win over Curry College. With offensive firepower and balance top to bottom, the team is setting its sights on the RSEQ championship this season.
“That’s the expectation,” Fasoulakis said. “The division hasn’t changed much [and] we feel that we can make a push deep into the playoffs this season.”
The Redmen entered last season full of veteran talent and optimism. With Head Coach Clint Uttley entering his fourth year at the helm, and a fearsome offensive line led by current NFL-draftee Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the bar was set high. However, after a convincing home win over Concordia in the Shaughnessy Cup, McGill would go on to drop four of its last six contests to end the season, leaving a bitter taste in their mouths.
After spending much of the past two seasons maturing and honing his skills behind Jonathan Collin and Pierre-Luc Dussault, senior quarterback Dallon Kuprowski will start under center for the Redmen to open the season. Kuprowski, who was once the highest ranked quarterback in Canada , has looked in good form during a pre-season exhibition game against Toronto, leading McGill to a come-from-behind victory on the strength of his passing game. The connection between Kuprowski and speedy junior receiver Jean-Phillippe Paquette will be difficult to guard.
While Kuprowski will be getting the majority of the team’s snaps, Uttley will not be afraid to utilize freshman quarterback Joel Houle in high leverage situations. Houle’s dynamic running game makes him an interesting option for the Redmen this season and in future years.
McGill opens the season at Sherbrooke this Saturday and will look to build on their pre-season success. With the Vanier Cup being hosted at Molson Stadium this season, expectations are sky high for the Redmen.
A previous version of this article stated that Clint Uttley was entering his second year as head coach. The Tribune regrets this error.