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UPEI Panthers’ midfielder didn’t balk when his head coach ask him to switch position for the betterment of the team
Lewis Page turned to one of his reliable veterans in a time of need last weekend.
With UPEI Panthers’ centre back Jake Deighan unable to play Sunday against the top-ranked Cape Breton Capers in Sydney, N.S., Page recalled a conversation a year earlier with assistant coach Dave Snowie.
“If we’re ever stuck, we should try Lucas (Ross) back there,” Snowie suggested to Page.
The veteran head coach called on that piece of advice Sunday.
Ross, a centre midfielder in his fifth season with the Panthers, hadn’t played centre back in years and while not scared to patrol on the back line, knew it came with the pressure of being the last line of defence in front of rookie keeper Evan Couturier.
“Centre back and centre mid have a lot of the same qualities, so I was able to apply those,” Ross said before Wednesday’s practice. “It was fun and I’m excited to play with Jake Deighan, the other fifth year.”
It was not clear if Deighan would be available for tonight’s home opener as the Panthers (0-2-0) host the Acadia Axemen (1-0-0) in Atlantic University Sport (AUS) men’s soccer action at 7:15 p.m.
Page said it is great to have guys like Ross willing to do what is needed to get the best 11 players on the pitch together.
“He doesn't shy away from a challenge,” he said. “His competitiveness and his intelligence carried him through the day.”
Ross came to UPEI from across the country.
During his Grade 12 year, the Vernon, B.C., native was looking for places to play university soccer, but there weren’t a lot of U Sports programs in the province at the time.
“I got in contact with Lewis Page and one thing kind of led to another. The next thing you know I was here at training camp that summer,” explained Ross, noting going to school so far from home was not something he planned. “It never crossed my mind, but I don't regret it at all. It’s been one of the best decisions.”
Page said Ross was a good holding midfielder as a youth and has taken on that role as a Panther. Size is one of his strengths, but there are many qualities that make him a strong presence wherever he plays on the field for the Panthers.
“He’s a very smart player,” Page said. “He’s a good passer of the ball and he gets himself into good positions to always be available (for passes).”
Ross is a key for the Panthers on set plays and almost tied Sunday’s contest near the end of the game, but his attempt went just over the crossbar.
The Panthers are looking to pick up points this weekend after dropping their first two games on the road.
“Friday is a big opportunity with a team that’s going to kind of be in the battle with us,” Page said. “We have to take our points at home.”
Ross is hopeful the team can get back in the post-season this fall and go on a long playoff run.
“We have to go out on high note,” he said. “A lot of these guys deserve it. We’ve worked so hard every year and we haven’t really been able to get the result we’ve won it. This is the last kick at the can, so we’re really striving to do something.”
A look at the UPEI Panthers varsity and club teams’ games this weekend.
5 p.m. – Acadia at UPEI.
UPEI head coach Glen MIller said: “We’re going from the frying pan into the fire and into something hot again. . . We need to be able to keep our mental energy high. AUS is high level soccer, and when each player stays focused on doing their part within the team, we’ll do good things.”
7 p.m. – Moncton at UPEI.*
UPEI head coach Forbes MacPherson said: “It will be nice to get into some game action. . . We have been evaluating everyone and working on structure on a daily basis. It is always more exciting when it is that time of year when this is done against competition. I’m looking forward to seeing some of our new Panthers in action.”
7:15 p.m. – Acadia at UPEI.
1 p.m. – UPEI Team A at UNB.
2 p.m. – UPEI at Acadia.
3 p.m. – UPEI Team B at UNB.
1 p.m. – UPEI at UNB.
3:15 p.m. – UPEI at UNB.
* Special pricing for exhibition game of $5 for adults and $2 for under-18 patrons.