Big season ahead for women’s soccer

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After a tough ending to the 2012 installment of the Wilfrid Laurier University women’s soccer team, the 2013 installment started their training camp early in preparation for another big season.

With five strong recruits coming in and the rest of the team returning, the Hawks have a very good chance to push for a competitive season.

“It feels great to be back on the field,” said Emily Brown, the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) leading scorer last season. “We’ve got a bunch of new players, and a couple have started and they played well for us.”

During the first full week of training camp, which stretched from Aug. 18 to Aug. 24, Laurier entertained an under-18 team as well as the women’s soccer team from McGill University.

While the Hawks dominated the under-18 team 8-0, the McGill game proved to be more competitive, as the Hawks fought in a scoreless draw. Fourth-year goalkeeper Katrina Ward came up with a few big saves with some help from the goalpost.

“[Defender] Kelsey Tikka, Kat Ward, Emily Brown will probably be the core people for [leadership] right now,” head coach Barry MacLean said following the exhibition game against McGill. “I think they’ll be fine throughout the year.”

MacLean and assistant coach Niki Budalic used the offseason to recruit players that would fill the voids that were left by graduates Kelsey Abbott, Krista Cellucci and Jessica Carter.

With additions such as Tierney Dunham and dual-athlete Jacalyn Normandeau, the Hawks are able to fill the defensive gaps, while Aysun Osmansoy, Nicole Lyon and Jessica Craig will help with the middle and attacking positions.

“They will definitely factor into our team for sure,” MacLean said. “I thought Tierney Dunham was a real bright spot as a rookie.”

“Our biggest hole that we’ve lost was in our defence, but Barry’s done a good job this year of recruiting people there, especially Tierney,” Brown said. “She’s played really well and [against McGill] she was a standout and you couldn’t tell it was her first game.”

Last year, Laurier finished with an 11-2-3 record, good enough for first place in the OUA West division. The Hawks finished second in the OUA, losing to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the gold medal game.

Laurier qualified for nationals, however, went 0-2 during the tournament.

For MacLean, his main focus for the new squad is organization heading into the regular season.

“We want to keep pushing the limits physically,” he said. “I think [the players] came in [to camp] in very good, physical shape, but I think playing games will get that up higher and higher. I want to make sure that we fix our organization … And I don’t think we looked comfortable trying to penetrate [McGill] on the other end. So those are two factors for us.”

With training camp wrapping up, the Hawks will focus on the season opener on Aug. 30 versus the McMaster Marauders.

Brown believes that there’s a lot that can be done before that time, and has high expectations for herself heading into her third year with Laurier.

“It’s nice to get back into the swing of things,” she said. “We have a lot of room for improvement and hopefully we’ll be ready for our McMaster game.”

“For me, I really want to work on holding off my defenders,” Brown continued. “Usually I am a lot more of a looping runner, but I want to make my game more physical and during the summer I’ve been working on that and hopefully that will improve my game this year.”

Laurier’s first home game will be Sept. 4, when the Hawks host the Brock Badgers at University Stadium. Game time is set for 6 p.m.

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