The Dalhousie Tigers men's soccer team came third in the AUS this year and a lost a heartbreaker to the Saint Mary's Huskies. They were missing several key veteran players like Nathan Rogers, Aaron Hoyle and Tyler Lewars. It was an abrupt ending to an impressive 2013 season, an especially bitter end to veteran players who watched from the sidelines as the game slipped out of their reach.
For Lewars, he'll get one more crack at an AUS championship as he returns for a fifth and final year with the Tigers in the fall.
He's scored 12 goals in his career with the Tigers, including four last year, and will be a veteran presence on a squad that has the potential to make some serious noise in the ever-changing AUS next year.
Competitive soccer was a way of life for Lewars growing up. He began playing with the Ottawa Fury when he was 13, and once he was 14 he was competing for the Fury in the Super Y league in the USL, where his team won four straight years competing against teams in Canada and the United States.
Lewars says it was a great experience to be able to play against some of the best players in his age group in North America.
When it came time to choose a university, Lewars looked east, but he wasn't looking at Dalhousie originally.
"My first choice was actually Acadia," laughs Lewars. "Once I saw both Wolfville and Halifax, it changed my mind a bit. When I came for my official visit with Dal, I trained with the team and all the guys were really nice, and that was a huge part of it for me."
This year's co-captains, Jordan Mannix and Nathan Rogers, played a huge part in getting Lewars to come join the Tigers.
"After we trained, they showed me what Halifax was like," explains Lewars. "They're two really good guys, and two of my best friends now."
Heading into his first season, he thought his first year with the Tigers would be largely spent riding the bench, but he was shocked when coach Pat Nearing announced his name in the starting lineup. He'd go on to start ten of eleven games in his first season and he finished the season tied for third on the team in goals.
This year, Lewars' season ended as he watched from the sidelines as the Tigers fell 4-1 in the AUS semifinal to Saint Mary's.
"It was pretty tough," says Lewars. "I sat with (Aaron) Hoyle, and it was tough watching and not being able to do anything with your team down 4-1. I don't know what I would have done, I probably would have freaked out."
Now heading into his fifth year, Lewars will serve as a leader both on and off the field as the Tigers look to make some serious noise in the ever-changing and highly competitive AUS. Their core of players heading into their fourth-year players that features team MVP Bezick Evraire will be in the prime of their careers and will hope to end Lewars' career on a high note.
When asked who he thinks will step up to help fill the void left by departing co-captains Mannix and Rogers, he was quick to name a first-year face on the squad.
"Jonathan Doucett came off a knee injury and started playing midway through last season, and he made his way into this starting lineup and was a key part of our backline," says Lewars of Doucett.
One of the biggest things that Lewars' has seen change since he arrived at Dalhousie in 2010 is the team chemistry. Once divided by cliques, the team now has incredible chemistry off the field, with first and second year players hanging out with fourth and fifth year players. The change in culture off the field has helped produced improved results on the field, and Lewars thinks that the Tigers will be in the mix when the next AUS final rolls around in November.