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Lords look to repeat as OCAA champs in 2018

The Lords celebrate their OCAA championship after b eating the Algonquin Thunder 2-1 in the final before moving on to British Columbia to participate in the CCAA National Championships. (Photo supplied)

By Chris Jones/Oshawa Express

The Durham Lords men’s soccer team had their best season in twenty years. Not only did they win the provincial championship, but they also finished in the top-five CCAA National Championships in Nanaimo, B.C.

For the upcoming season, the Lords are looking to repeat. They have been recruiting far and wide, but have also brought in three homegrown players from FC Durham Academy, a school in Oshawa where they encourage students to not only pursue their academic dreams, but their soccer dreams as well.

Including provincials and nationals, the Lords amassed a 12-5-1 record in 2017. They fell short of a national championship, but are hoping that it will be different this year.

Coach Dave Ashfield says that the competition at tryouts resulted in three players from last year’s team not making the roster this year.

Ashfield says that there are only four starters returning this season, as well as a few bench players. But not everyone who was on the team last season made it this year.

When talking about the pressures of winning the championship last season, Ashfield said, “I think most of [the players] enjoyed [the pressure].”

With the team being ranked 7th going into the playoffs last season, Ashfield compared his championship team to the recent surprise Stanley Cup run of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

Team captain Cody Kraemer thinks that in order for the team to be even better this year, they need to simply focus “on each game as it comes.”

Kraemer also thinks that there is going to be a target on their backs because of last season’s success.

“I think teams are going to want to take a piece of us,” he says.

He even singled out Algonquin College, saying that it was the first time in Lords history that they beat them not only once, but twice, with one of those wins coming in the OCAA championship game.

“I think it’s achievable for us to repeat,” Kraemer says. “I think overall we’ll be a much stronger team.”

While last year the Lords won Defensive Team of the Year, Kraemer feels that they could improve offensively.

Ashfield says that the team needs to be realistic in their goals, and Kraemer hopes to keep his newer, younger teammates grounded by “helping them through school and making sure they’re succeeding.”

This includes the new players coming from FC Durham Academy, a school that Ashfield has called “a very unique place.”

However, after exhibition games played against Queen’s, Trent and Brock, Ashfield said in order to repeat, the team needs to improve its intensity.

While he doesn’t believe that his team is feeling too much pressure to repeat, Ashfield says, “I think anytime you win a championship there’s always pressure to repeat.”

The Lords are set to begin the season against the Algonquin Thunder at home on Sept. 8 at the newly renovated Vaso’s Field at 3:15 p.m.