Students earn top honours at CCAA National championships

Students earn top honours at CCAA National championships

Like most of his teammates on the Men’s Varsity Soccer team, Michael Zinck played the sport from childhood.

“I’ve been playing as long as I can remember. My brother was big into it, he’s four years older than me. So at first it was just to play with my brother, and then I kept playing.”

Zinck, a second-year Bachelor of Arts student at King’s, now plays as a centre attacking mid with the Blue Devils. He credits much of his skill to those early games with his brother.

“It was awesome to play with him. Trying to compete with him when he was older and better, I feel like it gave me a little bit more of an edge. I feel like it helped me grow into the player I am now.”

The team’s hard work this season paid off in a big way, qualifying them for the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s (CCAA) National Championships. When they boarded the plane in early November, heading for Windsor, Ont., it marked the first time in 15 years that the team made it to Nationals.

An opening night banquet kicked off the championships. There, the top 15 players nationwide were awarded the CCAA All-Canadian Award for exemplary performances on their respective teams. When the names were called out, Zinck was on the list.

He says being named an All-Canadian felt a little surreal.

“I walked up on stage and I’m standing next to all these players from Quebec and Ontario who are just on the next level … to get that, and have all the guys—they were cheering during the banquet—it was an honour, honestly.”

Recipients of the CCAA All-Canadian Award are nominated by their coaches. Jamie McGinnis, Head Coach of the men’s soccer team, says he couldn’t be more proud of his player. In fact, he began coaching Zinck long before he played for the Blue Devils.

“I coached Michael from when he was eight to 11 years old in club soccer in Halifax,” he explains. “Mikey has always loved the game … he has put in so much work over the years to become the player he is today…. The crazy thing is that he has so much more potential to continue and grow as a player. I can’t wait to see what he does in [his third and fourth years] at King’s.”

Zinck’s inclusion on the All-Canadian list wasn’t the only honour King’s players brought home from Nationals.

Eleven players were selected for the CCAA Championship All-Stars Award recognizing exemplary performances over the weekend. Luke Kotaska, a second-year Bachelor of Science student who plays as a striker on the team, was King’s CCAA Championship All-Star.

“It was definitely exciting,” he says. “I feel super lucky to get it because there were a lot of really great players on my team who’ve had great showings … I was a little bit surprised, but super excited and happy to have been chosen for it.”

Coming from Yellowknife, NWT, Kotaska says the team was instrumental in his decision to attend King’s. Unlike many of his fellow players who were recruited from local soccer clubs, Kotaska tried out upon arriving in Halifax. Noting he would have remained at King’s even if he hadn’t made the team, he says it’s been a highlight of his university experience.

“The team means a lot to me. Soccer is important to me in that it like gets me that team aspect and is the source of a lot of my good friendships here … I really like having something tangible that I’m always working [to get] better at.”

Speaking to Kotaska and Zinck, it’s clear they’re proud of what they’ve accomplished, but they reiterate at every turn that their successes would not be possible without their teammates.

“I don’t think there’s a different group of guys that I’d want to go to nationals with,” Zinck says.

“Being with the team, celebrating when we scored some of our goals at Nationals, that was pretty exciting,” Kotaska adds. “Obviously, scoring goals in the regular seasons is awesome, but celebrating with your team after a score at Nationals is a bit different.”

Coach McGinnis is proud of the team’s performance. “Our mostly second-year team performed extremely well and represented King’s on the national stage, where other coaches commented on our tenacity, but also great sportsmanship.”

Off the field, one particular highlight of the trip was when they joined Chancellor Debra Deane Little and her husband Bob Little in their Windsor home for dinner.

“We appreciate the support of Debra and Bob for hosting us for a team dinner, getting our players to the event and providing snacks and support to the players at Nationals,” says McGinnis. “They have made a massive impact on our team over the past five years with the [Debra Deane Little and Robert Little Academic Scholarships for Varsity Athletes], which helped us get to where we are today.”

So, what’s next for men’s soccer? Kotaska and Zinck say going to Nationals has energized the team and they’re already looking forward to next year, building on the hard work, discipline and energy that took them so far in 2023.

“Everyone pushes each other to get better, in a good way,” says Zinck. “It’s just a great atmosphere and hats off to [coaches] Jamie, Matt, Mike and Joe. They’re all just awesome, they do great things.”

He smiles, then adds, “they keep us in check, even though we’re a bunch of knuckleheads.”


Check back on the website the week of November 20 to read a profile of Iriana Theoharopoulos, who made the CCAA Nationals All-Tournament Women’s Team!

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