Gutted. Heart-broken. Lost.
This was Stephane Legrand last year. This was how many of the Cambrian College soccer program players, men and women, felt last year after a support staff strike and subsequent consequences cost them all the 2011 season.
“It was devastating last year. Completely,” Legrand said. “It was tough. It hurt me. It hurt a lot of us on both teams. I couldn’t get motivated for anything. Even my grades plummeted. I love playing the game. Not playing hit me hard, not just as an athlete but as a person. A lot of us felt this way.”
Cambrian soccer master coach Giuseppe Politi felt like a well-used punching bag after the turmoil caused him to throw the towel in on both the men’s and women’s seasons. It was the last thing he wanted to do. It broke his heart. It stung particularly bad thanks to the fact both teams had come off outstanding 2010 seasons. Both squads made the playoffs and caused trouble before being eliminated. It was a time of rejoicing and dreaming of bigger and better things. It didn’t take long for things to sour and then go from bad to worse. No one from the soccer program is holding a grudge.
They have moved past the bump in the road that derailed the 2011 season. They are using it only as a positive motivator. No one from either team was going to allow missing a season destroy the program and what has been built.
“It did have the potential to have a big negative effect on us,” Politi said. “We are rebuilding now because we have no results to show for last year. It hit us hard last year. We also had defections. It was disappointing.
“We’re back now and going forward. It’s good to be back. We have good athletes here who want the program to succeed and be competitive. Our goal is to build a sense of tradition and be competitive every year.”
Legrand has learned to let it go, but still has trouble with the “What if?” factor. The competitor inside him, the kind that lives only to win, can’t help but think of what might have been in 2011 if fate dealt a different hand.
“We were stopped dead in our tracks and we had a strong team last year,” he said. “Probably the strongest team in Cambrian history. We could have done serious damage. It sucked. It was unfortunate.
“We’re back doing what we should be doing.”
The players know there is no way to make up for the lost time. The dedicated players — the players who would bleed dry for the team no matter what — kept up their end of the bad deal last year by finding alternate places to practice and keep their skills honed.
They came back with a positive mindset to make up for the lost season. They came back to let everyone in the OCAA know Cambrian still has a soccer program and it is chock full of heart and soul players who have no problem showing their Golden Shield pride.
“We couldn’t play last year, but we didn’t quit,” Mary Ellen Schroeder said. “We lost players and a lot of commitment last year. We started fresh this year and we’re working at getting the program competitive again. We have extra motivation now to prove to the league we can still compete and we will compete. It means a lot to us to show what we can do.”
The men’s team has been able to find its collective legs quicker than the women’s squad. The men forged a record of 2-1-3 to take hold of third place in the East Division. The women have put up a brave fight in most games, but sit last in the East Division at 0-6.
“Our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs and make a run,” Brandon Ladouceur said. “We know we have the team to do so. We battle in every game and don’t give up any easy points. We think this goal is possible.”
The women don’t need to be reminded of their record. They’re working on improving. They certainly don’t need to be reminded how crappy missing a season is and despite the losses, are pouring their hearts out in games.
“Last year … it makes me, teammates want to give everything we have,” Schroeder said. “We’re a team that will push to the end no matter what each game.”