Even after a heartbreaking shootout loss to the Carleton Ravens last October, the Gaels were optimistic for the future. The men’s soccer team finished with an 8-2-4 record last season and are welcoming the return of head coach Chris Gencarelli and a new recruiting class, including highly touted centre-back Joseph Zupo.
The summer has also brought on the significant loss of goalkeeper Sean Martin-Courtright. Although Gencarelli recognizes the loss as both significant on and off the field, he said the impact of Martin-Courtright’s absence will be steadied by new recruits.
“Sean was a great person and player for the Gaels,” he said in an e-mail to the Journal. “Not only could we rely on him in goal, but he was a positive presence and role model for the players. That being said, we have three returning goalkeepers who are anxious to compete for the starting position, and a recruit coming in with an impressive soccer resume so I think we’ll be able to cope with the loss.”
The rookie Gaels will be something to get excited for. Leading the group of recruits into training camp is defenceman Joseph Zupo. The soccer MVP from Senator O’Connor College School in Toronto has already racked up an impressive soccer resume. A 2009 Ontario Cup Champion and a ‘AAA’ OFSAA Bronze medalist. Gencarelli sees Zupo’s recruitment as adding to an already stacked defence.
“Joseph is the type of player that can make a positive impact in his first year,” he said. “At 6’2”, he has the ability to win aerial balls, and for his size is very composed with the ball at his feet. He will definitely be a positive addition to our already experienced defensive group.”
However, roster competition will be fierce come August.
“[Zupo] joins a list of about 7 or 8 recruits looking to leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff come training camp in August,” he said. “I truly believe this year’s recruiting class will be a very talented one, making for an exciting and competitive training camp.”
The return of Gencarelli to the head coach position after a two year absence from the soccer program offers experience and change to the team’s structure. While attending Queen’s University from 2003 to 2006, Gencarelli played for the soccer team and was captain in his final year. He joined the Gaels immediately after graduation and was a playing-assistant for the 2006 – 2007 season. After long-time head coach Al McVicar stepped down, Gencarelli became interim head coach in 2007 – 2008 under which the Gaels went 9-5-4 and finished with an OUA bronze medal.
Gencarelli said he sees the Gaels as an already technically skilled team and wants to focus on intangibles.
“One of the major issues I would like to address this year is team leadership and chemistry,” he said. “We need to be working toward a common goal and have a team-first mentality in order to achieve immediate success next year. I think it is usually those areas of a team sport that separate good teams from great teams.”
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