Graduating Seniors Q&A: Gajic, Rochat, Ho, Prasad, Abrahart, Ajibade hit final home RS weekend

Sheldon Prasad, left, Zach Rochat, Michael Ho, Joseph Abrahart, Abass Ajibade and Stefan Gajic will be feted following Sunday's game vs. Lethbridge (12 p.m., Clarke Stadium).
Sheldon Prasad, left, Zach Rochat, Michael Ho, Joseph Abrahart, Abass Ajibade and Stefan Gajic will be feted following Sunday's game vs. Lethbridge (12 p.m., Clarke Stadium).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Six members of the MacEwan men's soccer team are heading into their final home regular season games as Griffins this weekend.

MacEwan (2-4-3) hosts Saskatchewan (1-6-2) on Saturday (12 p.m., Edmonton Scottish) and Lethbridge (1-7-1) on Sunday (12 p.m., Clarke Stadium, both Canada West TV).


Stefan Gajic, Zach Rochat, Michael Ho, Sheldon Prasad, Joseph Abrahart and Abass Ajibade will be feted following Sunday's game in a special ceremony as they close in on the end of their university careers.

"Collectively, as a group, they built it," said head coach Adam Loga. "They took a chance on a young, rookie head coach and a young program. They took the bull by the horns and helped me grow it. We did it together and took a team that basically had 11 soccer balls to a playoff program. I can't say enough about the group. They've just been awesome. I'm so blessed to have them."

The following is a Q&A with each one of the six seniors on MacEwan's men's soccer team.


Adam Loga coach's quote …

"He's just such a great kid. He's been so awesome for us. The program wouldn't be where it is today without Steffy Cakes. He's a quiet leader, but he has such a positive spirit within him. There are few players over the last five years, and I could speak for the whole team when saying, that they trusted more over and on the ball. He just made everyone feel safe, if you will – 'Stef's on the field, we've got this.' "

Stefan Gajic has been a huge reason behind the growth of the Griffins' program into a playoff team (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Q: Graduating with … 

Bachelor of Commerce with a double major in Accounting and Marketing

Q: Career goal …

"I'm not too sure yet. I'm just kind of focusing on soccer. As the days go on, I'll figure it out."

Q: So, your immediate plans include trying to play pro somewhere?

"Yeah, I don't want to stress myself out too much about it. I have been applying for some Accounting jobs and because of Loga I got an Accounting job."

Q: What are some of your favourite memories as a Griffin?

"Definitely making playoffs. That second win against the Dinos and that feeling with the team. Making playoffs was huge for the team and for me. Also, just our trips. We have a lot of fun. We love to feed off each other's energy and we're just goofballs. It's always a fun time."

Q: Adam says when Stefan's on the field, there's a calm presence that he's got this. Do you feel that from your teammates and how have you tried to bring that energy to the field?

"I have a lot of trust for my teammates. They've verbally told me multiple times how they have faith in me on the ball. So, I just like to stay calm and play my game. I know I'm not necessarily a fast player or someone who's skillful with the ball, but I just like to stay calm, keep the ball for the team and just help out in any way that I can."

Q: Any personal highlights that stand out – a big goal you scored or anything else?

"I think my first CIS goal. It was early on in my first season against Sask. Sheldon (Prasad) crossed me the ball, it bounced in front of me and I just hit it and it went in. I just feel that was a relief for me – my first goal in CIS. It's definitely one that will stick with me for a while."

Q: Anything else you'd like to say about your time as a Griffin?

"I loved it. Not only did I grow as a player, but I also grew as a person. Adam Loga and all the coaching staff, they really harp on character and just being a good teammate whether it's on the field or off the field. Just creating life habits for us to be successful in whatever we do. I grew as a person. I definitely became more positive as the seasons went on. I definitely matured. Adam Loga entrusted me with the captaincy along with Zach (Rochat) and I feel like that helped me grow as a leader and just holding myself accountable."


Adam Loga coach's quote …

"Roach is such a solid human, such a great person. We were so blessed to get him on a transfer here. He's helped build the program and stuck it out in the tough times like the rest of this recruiting class. We'll definitely miss his right foot back there. He always lends a calming perspective. He's able to give objective insight whereas others may see things through more of an emotional lens.  Always focusing on the bigger picture, we were grateful to have his balanced outlook in the room throughout our process together."

Zach Rochat's defending has been crucial for the Griffins since he came into the program in 2018 (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Q: Graduating with …

English major, creative writing minor … going into an Education after degree

Q: Career goal …

"I want to become a teacher."

Q: When you look back at your time with the Griffins, what are some of your favourite memories?

"Obviously, the soccer is going to be the most important memory when I look back on everything. I know it's cliché to say it because everyone usually does, but it's the time off the field – the road trips, the buses, the planes, just in practice … that's what I'll miss most to be honest. Just the camaraderie that we have with one another."

Q: Any personal highlights that stand out to you – a big goal or a certain game?

"Last year I scored the game-winner against Sask. It was a 1-nil game. It was an important game for us and that's the most important goal I scored here at MacEwan. Then in my first year at MacEwan I won the MVP award, which was really good for me. I was super proud of myself for that."

Q: All six of you seniors have really helped push the program forward. How do you look back on the legacy you're leaving here?

"There's a big group of us that came in at the same time with the same goals. We're also on that same path in life. In terms of the legacy we want to leave behind, we're definitely the core group and we're moving on to stuff after MacEwan, but we just want to enjoy as much as we can with MacEwan.

Q: Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your time as a Griffin?

"I've been here for four years. From the start – my first year to now – the program's grown immensely, just in terms of the facilities we're provided with now. We have good places to train, our team workouts – the progression has been there every single year. I look forward to hearing what the coaching staff can do with the team even once we're gone. I'll always follow along with the Griffins and what they'll do. I would say the progression of the program has been great. MacEwan never used to be a playoff team. We'd always be the bottom two, missing playoffs. But then you look at last year, we snuck into playoffs on the last weekend. Then this year, we've been in a playoff position from Week 1 so far. We want to keep things going."


Adam Loga coach's quote …

"Not bad for a guy who was underrecruited. Mikey is the pulse of our team. If he's anxious, the players are all a bit anxious. If he's happy, they're all happy. He sets the mood and tone for us. With that comes great responsibility. Especially these last couple of years out of COVID, he's carried himself tremendously well. His level of compete, intensity, and last but not least his personality, will definitely be missed."

Michael Ho has been described as the pulse of the team (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Q: Graduating with …

Major in Sociology – Family, Youth and Diversity. Minor is Psychology

Q: Career goal …

"I'm trying to work with kids, give back to the community – especially low-income families. I just want to give back any way that I can. I've been part of Free Play. It's been good coaching these kids. I believe all kids should play for free, especially at a young age, so that's what I want to do."

Q: What are you favourite memories in your time as a Griffin?

"I think it would be last year, making our first playoff game. I captained it, so it was a great memory – our first in history."

Q: You six have been part of taking this team from a non-playoff team to a playoff team. Is that the legacy you feel you're leaving?

"When I came to this program, it wasn't the best it could be. Through the years, it's just been developing. I think this year, we have the best talent in our history."

Q: Adam describes you as the pulse of the team. Do you feel that and what's the energy you try to bring out there?

"Yeah, as the pulse I've got to stay positive, keep the energy high and these guys will follow. That's just been my personality throughout the years."

Q: Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your time as a Griffin?

"I came here with probably my best friend Sheldon (Prasad), so it's a great time to leave with him." 


Adam Loga coach's quote …

"It was super unfortunate we haven't had him healthy for our full duration together. That being said, it speaks volumes to the type of guy he is, to not be able to play given the injury, but yet he is still so impactful within everything we do. He's still very much a big part of what we do day-in and day-out, even if he's not dressed or on the pitch. Sheldon is the influential leader we needed when tasked to raise this program to the standard we believed it should be."

Sheldon Prasad hasn't played since the 2019 season because of an injury, but he's been a key leader off the pitch (Chris Piggott photo).

Q: Graduating with …

Major in Psychology, minor in sociology

Q: Career goal …

"I want to go on to a graduate program, go for my Masters in Psychology. But I also want to push on and try coaching soccer. There are a couple of opportunities and options I have."

Q: What are some of your favourite memories of your time as a Griffin?

"There's a lot. I'd say the B.C. trips are always the most memorable ones. There's so much that goes on. It's one of the biggest trips that gets us to bond between the seniors and rookies. It's just a big event for everybody. In my first year, that's how I was able to gel with the team and get to know my seniors. Every season after that, it was getting to know who I was with, what the new guys are aspiring to do. It was just a huge trip every year."

Q: Do you have any personal highlights that stand out to you – maybe a memorable game, goal or a pass?

"I would say a memorable game would be our trip to Thompson Rivers – probably one of the hardest games we've played. It was just under lights, on a beautiful field and it was just a tough game that was fun to be a part of. That was in 2019. We tied them 1-1."

Q: How do you look back on your Griffins' career? You played a lot early and then had some unfortunate injury trouble, but you acquitted yourself really well through it all. How do you look back on it?

"It was definitely tough getting injured, tearing my ACL and then stepping aside from the on-field stuff. My whole career before that was good. I was playing and getting a lot of minutes. It was just fun being there. Loga and everyone got me in after my injury and gave me an opportunity to still be a part of the team, just off the field. More responsibility. They mentioned to me that I could be a coaching staff member and I just felt a part of the team throughout it all even when I was injured. Now coming back into the season with training now, it's all fluid. It was like I was there the whole time. They helped me out a lot."

Q: Do you have anything else to say about your time as a Griffin?

"My university experience wouldn't have been the same if I wasn't with the soccer team. I've met so many great people. I even talked to some of the seniors I had in previous years. I still talk to them today. They're great friends. I've built really great memories and friendships and I don't think I would have done anything different."


Adam Loga's coach's quote …

"Jumpin' Joe, it's pretty special to see. He came in and stuck to the process. Always improving as a player and person, we all hope the program will continue to have guys like Jumpin'. Over his career he's helped us build and grow the program tremendously. The biggest thing with Joe is he's a servant leader. He is always willing to serve the program and his teammates. He will be missed."

Joseph Abrahart's role has grown every season with the team (Tia Schram photo).

Q: Graduating with …

Bachelor of Commerce with Major in Marketing

Q: Career goal or future plans?

"I'm currently working with Joey restaurant company. I've been with them for a while and I'm going to be taking on a management position with them. That's one of my options. I also may go to graduate school. I'm a little undecided at the moment. I'll see within the next year. As for soccer, I'm from the U.K. and I've been speaking with a few teams, so maybe I'll explore the possibility of going back in January and seeing what can come about. If not, I'm content with my career finishing off here."

Q: What are some of your favourite memories of your time as a Griffin?

"I think the biggest one that comes to mind is making playoffs with the team last year. Obviously, that was the goal coming in as a first year is to be part of that team to make playoffs for the first time. I think another thing is just creating history and monumental moments – even just last month beating Sask 2-nil away from home."

Q: You started your career as a super sub, coming into games late – I remember a goal you scored against Calgary in your first season. How have you seen your progression because you're playing lots of minutes now?

"That was an exciting moment for me – scoring my first goal for the team – and it was a pretty big one, too. I think it was 88th minute to win the game against the Dinos. That was one of, if not my favourite moments for the Griffins. As I've progressed through the team, I've kind of dropped down to left wingback and kind of found a home spot for me. I've really enjoyed playing there for the team. Yeah, kind of progressing from an attacker to a defender throughout the years."

Q: You went and played in Philadelphia in the off-season. How was that experience?

"It was fantastic. I got to play USL 2 this summer. I got an opportunity down there and that was really enjoyable playing semi-professional. Getting that experience and coming back here, bringing back some of the standards they had and applying that to our training here has been really great. Even just playing at that level against a lot of NCAA Div. 1 players was really fantastic. It was a really great opportunity both on and off the field for me."

Q: Do you have anything else you want to say about your time as a Griffin?

"I think it's just been really heartwarming to see how the program has progressed from when I came in to where I leave off now. When I first came in, we were training at soccer centres after school and were a team kind of in between ACAC and CIS to now a really established CIS team that is really pushing for not only playoffs but spots beyond there with nationals in mind. It fulfills me to see where the team is now."


Adam Loga's coach's quote ...

"Tobie has just worked tremendously hard from the moment he came in in 2019. To see where he's at now, it would leave some speechless. Huge progress on the pitch and arguably even more so in the classroom. When he came in, he almost looked a bit lost, but to see where he's at now, and going to graduate, amazing. He's going to be an Academic All-Canadian, and now consistently earning 90 minutes, he's played such a huge role in our program's development, and is such a great example for the younger lads."

Abass Ajibade has grown tremendously as an athlete and a student during his time at MacEwan (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Q: Graduating with …

Economics major and Psychology minor

Q: Career goals or future plans?

"Right now, what I'm thinking about is doing an after degree or Masters in Economics once I'm done at MacEwan and see where that can take me. If I can't do that, I'll look for a job, maybe with Bank of Canada. We'll see what the future holds."

Q: Can you take me through what you see as your growth as an athlete, person and a student since you first came to MacEwan?

"It's been a great honour and a privilege to be part of the program as a student-athlete. When I came into the program I was obviously one of the oldest rookies at the time. My grades in school … I wasn't doing good. I remember I had a meeting with the AD at the time, Loga and the Dean of the University. They wanted to know what my plan was and if I was actually going to take school seriously. That meeting went well, and I was able to get accepted to into school. At that point, it just changed everything for me, knowing that I could actually play soccer and go to school. Grace be to God, I can safely say that I'm going to be more disciplined and a better person in terms of school and soccer and everything in my life."

Q: What are some of your favourite memories of your time as a Griffin?

"My favourite memory would be us making playoffs last year. Obviously, it was the first time in our school history. It was one of the best moments of playing at MacEwan. It was a very good weekend."

Q: On the field, you seem to have hit another level this season. What's changed for you to drive your play this season?

"In the summer, I went to play in the United States (USL 2 with Fort Wayne) and that put everything into perspective for me. Even though I didn't get much playing time, I was able to be around quality players. I feel that changed the way I thought about the game and the way I just played. And also, another thing for me is if this was going to be my last year of playing soccer for MacEwan, I just wanted to go out with a bang, put it all out there and see what comes out of it."

Q: Anything else you want to say that sums up your time as a Griffin?

"Coming into MacEwan as an older athlete and not knowing what the future holds and not knowing what I was actually going to end up doing, I feel like it's been a fun ride and a roller-coaster at the same time with a lot of ups and downs. At the end of the day, I just thank God and I thank Loga for giving me the opportunity. If he hadn't given me the opportunity or the chance to show myself, I don't think I'd be here today; I wouldn't be in school. It's been a great honour to play for MacEwan and be a Griffin."