The 2012 season offered many tough lessons for a rebuilding program that has survived multiple winless seasons. Despite the struggles of years past, the Redmen (0-1) have numerous reasons to be optimistic after finishing last season with a 3-7 record and an RSEQ playoff loss against eventual national champions, the Laval Rouge et Or.
The biggest of these reasons is 6-foot-5, 305-pound offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Duvernay-Tardif, a senior medical student, finished last year on the CIS All-Canadian squad and has attracted attention from both CFL and NFL teams. Behind him quarterback Jonathan Collin—the 2009 RSEQ Rookie of the Year— has completed a long road of recovery from a leg injury in 2010 and plans to build on his previous success.
Although the Redmen lost nine starters from last year’s squad, the most impactful blow to both short-term and long-term success was the transfer of sophomore wide receiver, Shaquille Johnson. Johnson was a second team All-Canadian and also garnered CIS Rookie of the Year honours, playing a major role in leading the Redmen back to the playoffs and beyond.
Head Coach Clint Uttley enters his third season in the position and has done a commendable job so far of turning the program around. Watch for Uttley to continue building on last season’s moderate successes by developing a strong cast of rookies and sophomores, many of whom have been solid contributors so far in the pre-season.
The regular season has seen the Redmen drop its opener to Laval, 32-8, in a well-fought battle. They continue their season with their home opener on Sept. 6 with a Shaughnessy Cup tilt against cross-town rival Concordia. This game should provide an excellent chance to make a statement to the rest of the RSEQ that McGill Football is on the rise.
Last season, the McGill Martlets reached the semifinals of the RSEQ playoffs. Their final game ended in a heartbreaking shootout loss to Université de Sherbrooke, which ended their hopes of making it to Nationals after a strong third-place finish (9-3) in the regular season RSEQ standings.
Sophomore midfielder Kristina Pearkes thought that her team “started off strong but struggled to pull through in the playoffs” in a match that “could have gone either way.” Look for Pearkes to combine with senior Meghan Bourque and 2011 CIS Rookie of the Year Alexandria Hoyte to form a formidable midfield.
One of the biggest obstacles on their path to the playoffs will undoubtedly be the turnover on the sidelines as long-time Head Coach Marc Mounicot has left to coach the Redmen squad. His successor Jose-Luis Valdes will look continue that success. Valdes was a top assistant for the squad for nearly a decade and has been an important factor in five conference titles.
Furthermore, the team lost CIS All-Canadians Bahar Sansar and leading goal scorer and first team All-RSEQ Hannah Rivkin. Additionally, a leadership void must be filled as talented seniors Beth Armstrong and Julia Bahen have graduated.
Despite this, there is a sense of confidence in the locker room going into the 2013 season as the Martlets hope to build off of last year’s success. Sophomore Midfielder Julia Conzon noted, “Although we lost some older players, there’s still a strong core of returning girls and we have a lot of new promising recruits.”
The Martlets’ home opener is against Université de Montreal on Sept. 5, and a squad primed to take the next step will be ready for the new season.
Coming off a disappointing year in which the use of an ineligible player forced McGill to retroactively forfeit 11 of its 12 games, the Redmen (2-2-2) will undoubtedly be looking to turn a new page this fall.
It will be a season of many new beginnings for the team, the most important of which will occur behind the bench. Marc Mounicot assumes his new role as head coach after 15 seasons with the Martlets team. In that time he received numerous Coach of the Year recognitions, and became the most successful coach in Martlets soccer history.
By all accounts, McGill will be fielding a young and mostly unproven squad this year. If pre-season lineups are any indication, only a handful of the team’s starters come into this season with more than a year of CIS experience. However, the returning contingent includes sophomore goalkeeper Max Leblond, who will look to build upon an impressive rookie season, and already seems to be having a strong pre-season, posting two shutouts and boasting an impressive 0.60 goals allowed per game against CIS opponents.
The team will also look to Leblond to play an increased role off the pitch, given the absence of key veterans, namely last year’s MVP, Alexis Pradié. With Pradié’s departure, the club loses a two-time CIS All-Canadian and an invaluable member of the locker room.
Despite the uncertainty that comes with so much off-season change, this year offers the Redmen an exciting opportunity at a fresh start. Although inexperienced, expect to see a talented and energetic squad this Thursday Sept. 5 at 8:30 p.m. when the Redmen take to Molson Stadium in their season opener against the Montreal Carabins.