By John DeCoste
A strong start to their season earned the Acadia men’s soccer team a berth in the CIS weekly Top-10 rankings.
The Axemen, with three wins and a draw in their first four regular season games (and a 4-0-1 record overall), found themselves not only first in the conference last week, but also tenth in the country in the CIS rankings released Sept. 18.
This marks the first time since the CIS started releasing Top-10 rankings for men’s soccer some 15 years ago that Acadia has merited a spot in the national top-10.
In their most recent action Sept. 14-15 in New Brunswick, the Axemen edged Mount Allison 1-0 Saturday, then topped Moncton 3-1 Sunday.
The previous weekend in Wolfville, Acadia edged Moncton 2-1 and played to a 1-1 draw with UNB. The Axemen also won a pre-season game, 3-0 over Cape Breton.
Zach Shaffelburg had the Acadia goal against Mount A, while Eric Ross turned aside everything aimed his way to record his first shutout of the season.
In Moncton, Shaffelburg, Cochrane Noseworthy-Smith (both locally-produced players) and P.E.I. native James Mallard had the Acadia goals.
Shaffelburg, with a goal in three straight games, was leading the team with three goals, followed by Mallard with two and Noseworthy-Smith with one.
To head coach Findlay MacRae, his team's performance so far is "not a surprise at all."
"We have had teams the last two years that were capable of competing strongly. Unfortunately, those teams under-performed,” he said. “Last year, the main reason was that some key players came into training camp with injuries, and others suffered injuries during camp. This meant I wasn't able to put out the side I wanted. It wasn't until our last game, a victory over Dalhousie, that I was able to have anything close to my preferred lineup."
This season so far "has been the opposite," MacRae said.
"We have been able to have a consistent lineup of players starting each game, and our preparation has gone very well. With the addition of some excellent first-year players the team gelled well during training camp and has an excellent work rate and attitude," he said.
The soccer Axemen, along with the other varsity teams, have also benefitted from having a full-time strength and conditioning coach in Elliott Richardson.
"Our players, including our recruits, have been on a supervised program since the winter and throughout the summer,” MacRae said. “This has enhanced our team's preparation and performance. We also have a good balance of senior and junior players on the team who are determined to succeed."
As for the CIS national ranking, while MacRae "recognizes the historical significance of the ranking to our program, we are only four games in. Our sole focus must be on playoff success and the next step, which is our game on Saturday."
Acadia hosted Memorial and Mount Allison this past weekend, then faces a real test Sept. 26 in Wolfville against the defending conference champion Saint Mary’s Huskies.
The soccer Axewomen, meanwhile, had a win, two losses and a draw in their first four regular season games, after playing to a pair of draws in the pre-season.
In their most recent action Sept. 14-15, the Axewomen were blanked 3-0 Friday at Mount Allison and 1-0 Saturday in Moncton.
On the season-opening weekend in Wolfville, the Acadia women, like the men, won and tied, edging Moncton 2-1, then playing UNB to a 1-1 draw.