Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – If we've learned anything about this version of the MacEwan Griffins men's soccer team this season, it's to expect the unexpected.
So, despite their underdog status heading into a Canada West quarter-final match at West Division top seed Victoria on Saturday (7 p.m. MT, Canada West TV presented by Co-op), count them out at your own peril.
"I think the belief is there," said head coach Adam Loga. "We're unbeaten in four and arguably could be a on four-game winning streak.
"I think we're one of ... if you will ... the hottest teams in the conference right now. It's just about maintaining that momentum and attitude, and just making sure we're rested and healthy."
These are completely uncharted waters for a Griffins team that qualified for the Canada West post-season for the first time since joining the conference in 2014.
They'll take a 4-4-2 record onto the home pitch of a team that topped the traditionally-tough West Division with a 6-3-3 mark.
They've never beaten Victoria – going 0-2-0 in limited action between the teams in their history.
But throw all of that out the window with this Griffins team – a squad that doesn't read stats, bow to expectations or get caught up in what they're supposed to be.
After all, they lost 12-3 to Mount Royal University on Oct. 10 in the worst defeat in Canada West men's soccer history, only to finish the season on a 3-0-1 heater, including back-to-back 1-0 wins over previously unbeaten Calgary.
So, why not just keep rolling at top speed and see what happens?
"The boys are buzzing," said Loga. "We're pretty excited. It's just about utilizing that positive energy appropriately and making sure the lads stay focused and most importantly look after themselves and their bodies. It's been a bit of a grind emotionally, physically and mentally for the group."
After what they accomplished just to get to the post-season dance, the challenge will be to plant the flag on that mountain of an achievement and get ready to scale the next peak. Anything they do from here on out would be creating history for the program and memories for themselves.
Loga said the key is to stay level and keep playing with the urgency they've had the last two weekends.
"We've been playing playoff soccer now for the last four games," he said. "It's been basically do or die for us. That mentality doesn't change and we just have to continue to execute our game plan. We did it last weekend.
"We just have to continue to be disciplined in that area, don't over-complicate things, play within our strengths and go from there."
The winner of Saturday night's game will advance to the Canada West Final Four tournament, set for the Nov. 5-7 weekend at the highest-remaining Central Division seed.
From there, the road continues to the U SPORTS national men's soccer championship, set for Nov. 18-21 in Ottawa (hosted by Carleton University).