Eastern Ontario representatives Kingston Clippers have been going strength to strength over their first two seasons in League1 Ontario, growing into seasons as they proceed and registering some big late season performances. Their Queen's University home ground has become the definition of home fortress.
In turn, the roster has increasingly taken on a true Kingston personality as more and more locals have proven capable of stepping up to the Pro-Am level. Clippers head coach Christian Hoefler is also the head coach of the Queen's University men's varsity program, and so there is an understandable growing presence of Queens players in the team, adeptly mixed with the best that the Eastern Ontario region has to offer.
A strong core of returning players, a host of young prospects with CIS and higher-level experience, and a commitment, determination and unity on the pitch that makes Kingston an incredibly difficult place to go for opposing teams. How far can Kingston go in 2016?
League1 sat down with Hoefler to get a sense of what is blowing in from the east...
Clippers had a great finish to last season and sprung some surprises on top teams. Joel Zelt's goal of the year comes to mind as a highlight.
The club seems to have focused more on local talent over the seasons, so what will the squad look like this year? What are the goals for the season ahead?
Entering into our third year as a League1 Ontario side, we have learned from some of the challenges that faced us in previous seasons.
We have added more depth to the roster with the target of ensuring there are two or three players capable of playing specific positional roles.
Our game model has been tailored with input from returning leaders and new players that has allowed this group to feel engaged in the goal-setting, and has given accountability behind our outcomes.
With the rising interest and elite level of play increasing in League1 Ontario, one challenge we faced this season has been the influx of quality players that wish to join our club, in hopes of playing at the highest level possible.
We want to foster as many of these players as we can, to maximize their potential and further grow the program; however, each player needs to believe in the steps our Club and the OSA are outlining as a long term plan for the future of this sport in Kingston, Ontario, & Canada.
Our biggest group goal for the season is to finish in the top three of the East and earn a cup birth to the third round. Of course, every member of this group are striving to perform at their best on a consistent basis, and we all believe a title run is possible; however, we will also be setting weekly goals based on our match day opponent, along with other individual/ team objectives.
You've had some stalwart performers in the squad over the past season or so. Will you have many returning players in the 2016 team?
We are fortunate to have a core group of leaders returning to our roster. This will include experienced captains Andrew Martin & Eric Koskins, with Martin leading our attack as a versatile forward and Koskins securing our back line as a central defender.
Veteran talisman Ryan McCurdy and the much respected Joey Pineo will be expected to lead the middle of the park alongside our attacking fullback Kristian Zanette and set-piece maestro Julian Piccioli.
Ryan McCurdy (Photo: Tracey Row)
So you have been drafting through a number of new players at Clippers. Please highlight a collection of new players in terms of where they are coming from, achievements, attributes etc.?
We have injected the roster with youthful players that have shown over the pre-season a higher technical capacity and lightning pace.
New players Rory McParland, Patrick Van Belleghem and Brevin Mackay all had a stellar OUA season playing as first and second year student-athletes with the Queen's University varsity men's side last fall, and have already demonstrated true potential to succeed in League1 Ontario.
Mackenzie Roach, formerly of the Toronto Lynx and Oakville Blue Devils, has signed with our top team and has committed to attending Niagara University Purple Eagles for the 2017 NCAA D1 season.
Other notable signings include Lucas Blain of Algonquin College (Ottawa) and Karl Russell of RMC (Kingston).