By Adam Gorski, Sports Layout Editor
There’s a lot of unusuality about the upcoming campaign for the Canisius men’s soccer team. Whether it be the regular season taking place in spring instead of the fall, the shortened slate of just six games or the long layoff from their last match back in 2019, things will be different.
Despite all that, for head coach Dermot McGrane, he and his team are just grateful to be back on the pitch.
“It’s obviously something no one has ever experienced before,” he said. “We’ve been going for a month so far and I think our guys are just desperate to play someone.”
Coming off a rather dismal 2019 season that saw the Griffs finish 2–15 overall and 1–9 in conference play, good for 10th in the MAAC, there’s been a strong desire within the group to improve and that work started during the COVID-19 layoff. While the team was unable to practice and play in-person last spring, players instead analyzed old game footage in order to see where things went wrong and how to be better.
“What we tried to do is keep our guys engaged as much as possible,” McGrane said. “Obviously, we had a bad year, we wanted to make improvements. Having them analyze games kept them involved, and back in the fall, we actually had a very productive fall season. The attitude of the guys was brilliant.”
The Griffs enter this season having lost their leading scorer in 2019, Troy Brady (five goals), to graduation, and his production is something that will need to be replaced if they’re to compete. Sophomore forward Federico Mereto will be looked upon to do so, as will fellow sophomores Tyler Lewandowski and Julius Schoner. Senior Lachlan Beever, who played mainly in defense last season, will play more up the field this year and freshman Luke Szablewski, a local product from Lancaster, N.Y., is another name McGrane hopes will produce.
In the back, they return experienced defenders in Killian Panis, Alessio Atzori and Matt Spangler. Senior goalkeeper Tom Crosbie will likely be the man looked upon to start between the posts.
“Right now, we’ve been doing intrasquad games which give you an idea of where you’re at, but you don’t really know until you play some outside competition,” McGrane said. “It’s very hard to judge where we’re at (until then).”
The Griffs were predicted to finish 10th in the MAAC preseason coaches’ poll, and had no players selected to the preseason All-MAAC team. For McGrane, he’s perfectly okay with his side being underestimated. His goal is simply to be one of the eight teams that qualify for the postseason, and see what happens from there.
“We had a terrible year last year, we were tenth, so the goal is to make the playoffs,” McGrane said. “I don’t really care which position we make it in. Once you make the playoffs, you’ve got to win three games. I think we’re capable of going on a run in the playoffs.”
The team opens their season at home against Fairfield on March 11 at 4 p.m.