Who Will Be The U Sports Men’s Coach of The Year
It’s that time of the year where in a couple of hours the National U Sports Men’s Coach of the Year will be announced at the banquet at Cap Breton University in Sydney, NS. So let’s take a look at the candidates from the four Conferences.
Larry Stefanek – University of Victoria Vikes
The University of Victoria men’s soccer head coach Larry Stefanek has been named the 2023 Canada West Coach of the Year.
Stefanek oversaw a Victoria program that experienced a resurgence in 2023, as he guided the Vikes to an impressive 10-4-2 conference record (11-5-2 overall) in just his second season at the helm. The team improved by seven wins over their previous year’s record, finishing second in the pacific division and qualifying for the Canada West playoffs. The Vikes also recorded their first 10-win conference season since 2013 in 2023.
Under his guidance, the Vikes were one of the most well-rounded sides in Canada West. Victoria ranked third in offence by scoring 1.50 goals per game, while also playing shutdown defence, finishing fourth by giving up just 0.81 goals per game.
Under Stefanek’s guidance, four Vikes were named Canada West All-Stars in 2023: first team selection Javier Sagaste, second team honouree Fin Tugwell, and all-rookie team members Aiden Grew and Matthew Pearse.
The Vikes finished the 2023 season in second place in the pacific division and as Canada West semifinalists after being picked to finish ninth in the conference in the preseason coaches poll.
Coach of the Year (East) – Marcelo Plada – Carleton
The Carleton Ravens have achieved long-standing success on the pitch, and adding to that lengthy legacy is the 2023 OUA East coach of the year, Marcelo Plada.
As a rookie to the team himself, Plada helped guide the Ravens to the top spot in the OUA, completing the regular season with a record of 10-1-1. Creating an immediate impact on the culture and environment for the players, the team was able to race their way to first place right out of the gates, starting the season undefeated with a 9-0 mark to push them into the playoffs. Plada’s tutelage also helped the team shine on the scoreboard, as he saw his Ravens lead the league in goals for (38) and shot percentage with a sparking .319 clip. The team also surrendering just nine goals against, which was tied for second fewest in the conference.
Plada joins a pair of decorated past Carleton coaches to take home the honour, and with a pair of first team and second team all-stars from his roster being recognized as well, caps off a thrilling first season at the helm in style.
Coach of the Year (West) – Keith Mason – Guelph
A longstanding member of the Guelph Gryphons community, Keith Mason earns the 2023 coach of the year nod in the West Division.
The veteran head coach of the Gryphons, in his 34th season as part of the University of Guelph soccer programs overall, is no stranger to the patrolling the sidelines or earning accolades in the OUA. From across the pond, the West Bromwich, England native led his team to a 7-4-1 record and a berth into the playoffs, helping the Gryphons grouped to be a well-rounded threat across multiple facets of the game. Guelph ranked sixth in the conference in goals for, netting 23 on the season for just under two per game, while surrendering just 12 across their 12 regular season matches. Mason’s guidance also saw a trio of his players tabbed as all-stars from the net out, including a pair of first-team selections.
Mason takes home the OUA coaching award for the third time, having last done so just a couple years back in 2021 and earns the sixth such honour for the Guelph program overall.
RSEQ – Pat Raimondo – University de Montreal
In what has been a very quiet, “just go about your business kind of way”, U de Montréal Head Coach Pat Raimondo has been named the 2023 RSEQ Coach of the Year.
With probably a little something to prove, Pat Raimondo’s charges have set themselves up to take another glorious run to another U Sports Men’s Soccer Championship, or for a “let down” after their championship loss to the UQTR Patiots in the RSEQ Final. Either way Coach Raimondo has built a program that are perennial champions on any given day.
Leading the Carabins to an undefeated regular season, the only blemish came in the final.
Juggernaut may not be a fair adjective for this team. So, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the RSEQ is more appropriate when referring to Montreal.
Last year in 2022 was a season of excellence. A 9-1-2 record and a +23 goal differential led to capturing the bronze medal finish in the U SPORTS National tournament. These are all achievements for the Carabins to boast about.
However, these accomplishments are the norm for the program. Star-studded lineups filled with players not solely ranked in the upper echelon of talent within the French province but also nationally.
As much as the offence deserves their flowers with an impressive 33 goals tallied in 12 games, it’s the backline that is nightmare fuel for opposing attackers trying desperately to beat the defence. This defence allowed under a goal per match (10 goals against in 12 matches) in 2022-23.
It should be noted, however, that the star defender Isamël Sow and attacker Thierry Cote finished historic careers dawning the all-blue kit in November of last year. Still, under the guise of head coach Pat Raimondo, the players selected to take the spots will be well-coached and prepared come the start of the season.
Graham Kennedy – STFX X-Men
STFX X-Men head coach Graham Kennedy has been selected by his peers as the AUS men’s soccer coach of the year for the second time in his career.
He first earned the honour following the 2010 season when he was also chosen as the CIS (now U SPORTS) coach of the year.
In this (his 15th) season at the helm of the X-Men program, Coach Kennedy led his team to a 9-2-1 record, a second-place finish in the regular season standings and a first-round bye through to the AUS championship semifinal round.
The STFX team managed a league-leading 33 goals in 12 regular season games and boasted the lowest goals against average in the conference of 0.92.
Coach Kennedy now becomes the Atlantic conference nominee for the U SPORTS coach of the year award. Cape Breton Capers head coach Deano Morley is the most recent coach from the Atlantic conference to take home the national honour. He won in back-to-back seasons in 2017 and 2018.