A look ahead to to the 2011-2012 edition of the WLU Golden Hawks

Men’s Soccer

Head coach Mario Halapir returns with a slightly older and more mature cast of players who finished third in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West last year.

The Hawks will lose some offensive firepower in the oft-injured Alex Doma, Spencer Cawker and ex-captain Ben Clifford, but Halapir will look to fill that scoring void with a greater role given to second-year Sandro Stojakovic, who showed an offensive flair in his inaugural year. Donald Chmura and David Corazzola have also shown flashes of brilliance, but their chances were limited last year with a deep roster of older players getting the majority of the field time.

The Hawks’ defence took a major hit with graduating players Matt Smith, Josh Moore, Eamonn Hardy and Zach Faubert-Tetrault leaving the purple and gold in 2011. Chris Walker will log huge amounts of minutes as he leads a very inexperienced group of defencemen on the back-end.

In net, the Hawks will continue to hand the ball to Jarrett Humphreys, with Martyn Hooker serving as a capable backup. Hooker showed the brass what he could do in the playoffs last year as he held his own when a concussion prematurely ended Humphreys’ season.

— Kevin Campbell

Women’s Soccer

The 2010 season ended in heartbreak for the women’s soccer Hawks.

After a stellar season that saw them record an impressive 11-1-2 (won-lost-tied) record and win the OUA championship, the purple and gold lost in extra time in the CIS championship to the Queens Gaels, the team they defeated for the provincial title just a week prior.

However, the Hawks seem to be in good position to avenge that gut-wrenching loss. Just two players — forward Ali McKee and defender Erica Horner, were lost to graduation, which means the team’s core, including the likes of former national team member Alyssa Lagonia, last year’s OUA West MVP Tania Pedron and the 2010 Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) rookie of the year Kelsey Tikka, will all be back to make another run at the national title.

—Justin Fauteux

Men’s Hockey

Head coach Greg Puhalski’s first season behind the bench reaped immediate dividends for Wilfrid Laurier University’s ice-warriors.

An extremely young team surprised even themselves and, with the help of a standout performance by goaltender Ryan Daniels, shot up to 2nd place in the West. They later bowed out to Guelph in the second round of the playoffs.

Still, an incredible season can only be improved upon by Puhalski’s troops with a returning Daniels and group of forwards with a nose for the net, Thomas Middup, Mitchell Good and Jordan Bonneville.

Gone are captain Jean-Michel Rizk, Ryan Bellows, Colin Williams and Laurier’s own smooth-skating and hard-hitting Ryan Murphy in Ryan Bernardi. The defence looks strong with Garrett Sinfield and Zack Shepley returning along with Phil Magistrale. Filling Bernardi’s skates will be hard to do but as long as the power-play remains sharp and the defence contributes some offence as a tandem, the Hawks should strive for at least another second-place finish.

A strong penalty-kill will also be crucial to the team’s success.

Look for big things from this group, who should only get better as the season goes on.

—Kevin Campbell

Women’s Hockey

A powerhouse team which stumbled late in the playoffs and in the national championships, this team will realize what they’re made of after a season of devastation, losing the CIS bronze at home last year.

Within a growing and improving OUA women’s hockey league, Laurier must now compose themselves and learn from their late-season tumbles as the bulk of the team is returning.

Iconic goaltender Liz Knox is graduated along with Erin Weber.

Katherine Shirriff, Heather Fortuna and Alicia Martin may return, and if they do, the Hawks will be in better shape, but there’s no question the team went through growing pains last year.

With a better knowledge of coach Rick Osborne’s systems, the team has a core group of players who have grown together.

Rookie sensation Laura Brooker will lead the charge after taking the league by storm thanks to her deadly-accurate sniping abilities. The real test comes in goal as Kristen Kilgallen will try to fill Knox’s enormous skates.

For the first time in a long time, there will be questions surrounding the most potent team on campus.

— Kevin Campbell

Men’s Basketball

The men’s basketball Hawks were a pleasant surprise last season, losing to Carleton in the OUA semifinals, concluding what was one of the best campaigns in Laurier history.

This year’s team looks to build on that success with team MVP and superstar Kale Harrison coming back for a fifth season. Harrison will lead a team that is looking to mature and contend for a Wilson Cup, as reigning rookie of the year Pat Donnelly and blossoming star Max Allin look to improve on impressive campaigns.

Head coach Peter Campbell can also rest easy knowing rebound machine Matthew Buckley will also be back for a fifth season, giving the Hawks the physical presence they’ve grown accustomed to.

Campbell will also look for rookie standout Jamar Forde to continue his progression and capitalize on his athletic ability, which made Forde a defensive asset last season when facing teams with a large scoring threat.

However, the key to this team’s success falls once again on Harrison’s shoulders.

He is one of the premier shooters in the CIS and in order for this team to meet the lofty expectations now set upon them, Harrison will need to match last season’s scoring productivity.

While the team around him will no doubt be impressive, it is their MVP that makes them a legitimate contender. Anything other than an improvement on last season’s finish can be considered a letdown as it is essentially the same roster, only improved and more experienced.

—Chris Mander

Women’s Basketball

The 2011-12 women’s basketball team has a tough act to follow.

Last year’s squad posted the best season in team history after a Cinderella playoff run saw the Hawks finish fifth in Canada, higher than any other Laurier women’s basketball team.

And to makes things even tougher, the Hawks will have three gaping holes in their starting five left by the graduation of Megan Grant, Mallory Kohlmeier and two-time OUA West defensive player of the year Renata Adamczyk.

This means the Hawks will need a big season from fifth-year Christa Mancino and continued development of last year’s standout rookie point guard Felicia Mazzerolle.

With around 10 first and second years on the team this year, the Hawks will be young and hard-pressed to repeat such a standout performance.

—Justin Fauteux

Men’s Baseball

A safe pick for a team to bounce back after a down season, Laurier baseball is looking to build on previous success under manager Scott Ballantyne.

One of the lone bright spots offensively for the Golden Hawks was rookie of the year Nathan Loehle, who led the Hawks in several offensive categories.

Third baseman Ryan Panas has also put up impressive numbers at the plate and looks to contribute to a team that as a unit, struggled to score runs.

The strength of the team for a few seasons now has been pitching, and this upcoming season looks to be no different.

The biggest question mark in the rotation is Steve Zagrodny, who will no doubt put up his usual impressive numbers if he is able to overcome a serious shoulder injury.

The staff also features veteran Jack Malone, who has proven to be a consistent starter for the Golden Hawks as of late and will look to match last season’s success, which earned him a comeback player of the year award.

The team also features an intimidating bullpen full of veteran pitchers looking to provide stability late in games. Team captain David Canavan will attempt to solidify himself in the closer role, along with becoming the anchor of a scary staff.

A subplot for the team lies in the two sets of siblings, with twin towers Brett and Trent Barwick looking to one up each other, and the same can be said for the Greenberg brothers (also pitchers) with Andrew already making a name for himself in the OUA.

It would not be surprising to see this team contend for first place in the OUA, as long as their bats are able to come alive and find some consistency.

—Chris Mander

Men’s Football

Last fall was the first time quarterback Shane Kelly had played football north of the border and, at times, it showed.

To make matters worse, the former Columbia University star battled injuries, while he and his teammates had to deal with off-field issues such as an eligibility ruling that forced Laurier to forfeit a win.

All this culminated in the Hawks falling in the OUA semifinal in a 32-31 thriller against the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

This season, Kelly will be back, not only with a year of Canadian experience under his belt, but also an arsenal of weapons that includes CIS all-star Dillon Heap, top CFL prospect Shamawd Cambers and former rookie standout Alex Anthony.

However, the Hawks will suffer from the loss of six-foot-six , 350- pound left tackle Mike Knill who was drafted by the Toronto Argonauts last month.

On defence, the purple and gold will need some younger players to step up as they took significant hits with the graduation of defensive tackle Steve Cormack and linebacker Giancarlo Rapanaro.

—Justin Fauteux

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