Season Preview: Men’s & women’s soccer

Coaches Christian Hoefler and David McDowell are more than ready to get back on the pitch this fall

Dave McDowell, pictured left, and Christian Hoefler, pictured right.
Supplied by Athletics and Recreation

After 15 months without facing other competitors, the Queen’s Men’s and Women’s soccer teams are, understandably, ready to pick up exactly where they left off two seasons ago.

“We expect to be ultra-competitive with everyone in U Sports,” Women’s head coach, Dave McDowell told The Journal in an interview. “That’s where we’re heading.”

After missing a full season’s worth of Soccer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both squads are itching for the opportunity to get back on the field and show their competitors how lethal they are.

For McDowell, this means following up on the women’s team’s stellar 2019 campaign, which saw them go undefeated (12-0-1) in the regular season and tie for the number one OUA ranking alongside uOttawa ahead of the postseason.

Despite brandishing an accomplishment that only three other teams in the program’s history can speak of, those same OUA playoffs ended in disappointment for the women’s team, as the Gaels were upset by the University of Toronto (UofT) Varsity blues 3-0 in the quarterfinals.

“Last year was the first year in, I can’t remember when, [that] we weren’t in the final four,” McDowell said.

A harrowing experience, McDowell went on to note that although a much deeper playoff run was expected, the team used it as an opportunity to reflect and learn from themselves. With that in mind, McDowell stated that the team’s 2019 OUA playoff run hasn’t shortened their goals or expectations for themselves in the season ahead.

“We’re hoping for […] a run of performances that get us through OUA’s and keep us fighting for the National Championship.”

Hailing the current team’s focus and maturity, McDowell believes that this team will be no less entertaining to watch—particularly because of their obvious knack for goal scoring.

“There will probably a swashbuckling, countering, transitional style [of play],” he said, following up by mentioning with the team’s renewed attention for their play on the defensive end.

“I think that’s the big focus right now. [Asking] both individually and collectively, ‘how are we shutting down opponents?’, and ‘where are we shutting them down?’”

Ultimately, McDowell said that spirits are high in the locker room, and he and the team are very keen to release the pent-up energy they’ve built up over the last year.

A similar sentiment was shared by Men’s Soccer head coach Christian Hoefler, who commented that the attitudes of his own players couldn’t be better ahead of the upcoming 2021 campaign.

“There’s a good, positive energy in the group, and we’re really keen to get the season going,” he said in an interview with The Journal.

Hoefler, who’s coming into his sixth season at the helm of the Men’s squad, is also eager to shake off a disappointing 2019 run at OUA’s. After clinching their playoff berth in the final game of the regular season—a 3-2 nail biter against the Laurentian Voyageurs—the team was handed defeat in the first round of postseason play by the UOIT Ridgebacks.

Speaking to his disposition regarding this year’s playoffs, Hoefler iterated his ultimate goal as head coach: winning a championship.

“I want to bring banners to Queen’s. I want to see banners in the main gym of the ARC.”

Touching on the storied history of Gaels teams who have brought home such banners, Hoefler said it’s one of his personal ambitions to add to that tradition at Queen’s—and he thinks this year’s squad is certainly a step in that direction.

“I do genuinely believe this group of guys will add to that,” he said.

Turning to this year’s roster, Hoefler mentioned that the younger average age of his players will mean great things on the pitch. Not only have they already shown a natural aptitude for technical and strategic adaptability, but they’re athletic. Really athletic.

“This is probably the fastest team I’ve ever had,” Hoefler said. He later went on to pay homage to the team’s equally impressive Soccer IQ.

Though hopes are running high for the upcoming season, Hoefler stated that he and his team aren’t getting ahead of themselves. Rather than focusing entirely on the goal of winning a championship, they’re constantly setting smaller, attainable goals they can accomplish daily. Little by little, Hoefler hopes this will mean a season he and the team will be proud of.

“I think if you jump too far ahead […] you kind of forget about the process, or you really put yourself in a tough spot,” he said.

As the OUA has shortened the regular season from 16 to 10 games for both men’s and women’s divisions, Hoefler also expressed a desire to make the best of this upcoming season despite its brevity.

The 2021 varsity soccer season will kick off with both teams visiting Toronto next week. The Men’s team will square off against the UofT Varsity Blues on Sept. 17, with the Women’s team knocking on the door of the Ryerson Rams shortly thereafter on Sept. 19.

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