Young Gryphons and Sheridan settle for scoreless draw

GUELPH – The Guelph Gryphons finished the opening day of their OUA men’s soccer training camp by battling the Sheridan Bruins to a scoreless standoff at the Gryphon Soccer Complex Wednesday night.

“Today was all about having a look at the players and seeing what they’ve got to offer,” Gryphon coach Keith Mason said. “We always knew it would be a bit scrappy, but we’re still unbeaten so that’s nice to start that habit. Now it’s just building on our strengths and we do have a lot of good talented players here and a lot of good strengths.”

Rather than play the usual two 45-minute halves, the game was broken down into three 30-minute third instead to give players trying out for the OUA’s Gryphons and the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association’s Sheridan a chance to shine. The Gryphs fielded a different lineup for each of the third.

“We’ll give everybody a fair go and a good look and then we’ll start to try to narrow down the numbers a bit and get a bit more focus because York comes quick, our first game of the season,” Mason said.

This year OUA teams are dealing with shortened training camps as they’ve been reduced to 10 days.

“It makes it tough, but the rules are the rules and we abide by them,” Mason said. “I’m confident that we’ll be ready when we need to be ready and that’s the main thing. Every team is in that boat.”

The Gryphs will field a bit of a different lineup from last year when they had five players in their final year of eligibility – defenders Conor O’Callaghan, Willem Grant, Jalen Noronha and Calvin Witzell and midfielder Ryan Vyrostko.

“This year we’ve got a lot of change of personnel so it’s going to take a bit of time for us to gel as a team and get used to each other, but once we do that, we’ve got a lot of talent as well. I’m very optimistic for the season ahead,” Mason said.

However, the Gryphons do have U Sports player of the year and co-winner of the OUA athlete of the year award Jace Kotsopoulos back for a fifth year and fellow forward Alex Zis has returned, too. The third player selected in the CPL’s inaugural draft, Kotsopoulos scored a pair of goals for Forge FC of Hamilton before deciding to return to the Gryphons.

“Jace is back and that’s a huge bonus,” Mason said. “And we’ve got Alex Zis back for us from Florida. He scored 14 goals for us in his rookie year before he went and spent two years in Florida and he decided to come back. With him and Jace back in the team is a huge bonus. I think they’re going to be a very good engine for us in the midfield.”

Zis played two seasons of NCAA soccer with the South Florida Bulls. He started 20 of the 29 games he played and responded with nine goals and nine assists.

“He’s experienced it down there. He did well and he was very successful, but he also enjoyed it here and coming back he gains an extra year of eligibility,” Mason said. “There he had one (year) left, here he’s got two. With the (Canadian Premier League) draft coming in now, he’s one player who could certainly be looked at by the CPL moving forward. It’s a good opportunity for him.”

The Gryphs have a pair of preseason games this weekend before they’re to open their regular season against the York Lions at York Aug. 31.

“We’ve got to build the camaraderie of the team,” Mason said. “We’ve got to build the cohesiveness at the back. Midfield going forward, there’s a lot of returning players so that will come quickly. At the back there’s a lot of new players so that’s where we’ve really got to work hard to make sure everybody understands their role and make sure everybody’s ready. We’re certainly confident we’ve got the personnel to do that.”

This weekend the Gryphs are to host the McGill Redmen Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Carleton Ravens Sunday at 2 p.m.

 

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