First-year striker Sasha Marikano on the keys to her success on the pitch

Local Kitchener native and first-year forward, Sasha Marikano dazzled in her first year on the pitch with the Golden Hawks women’s soccer program. After the cancellation of Ontario University Athletics (OUA) soccer last season, Marikano, who most recently played as a part of the Kitchener TFC Academy made the most of her first year with the purple and gold. 

“I was really excited to actually get to be on the field with Laurier,” Marikano said. “During the pre-season, I was already so excited to play because I knew that the first year’s last year didn’t get to have a season.” 

“It was everything that I thought it would be when I did get here,” Marikano said about choosing Laurier for her academic and athletic career. 

The decorated Laurier Women’s soccer program took a step forward this season in their return to the pitch, just barley missing out on the playoffs during the reduced 10 game schedule. With several newcomers a part of the roster along with a proven group of seniors, the Golden Hawks came out of the gate quick, going undefeated in their first six games. 

Legendary soccer coach, Barry MacLean had his team near the top of the province after the first half of the season, winning 4 of their first six games, including a victory over the top-ranked Western Mustangs, who are currently competing at nationals. 

Marikano made an impression from the start of the season and remained dominant throughout the year. In the first home game of her Laurier career, a matchup against the cross-town rival, Waterloo Warriors, Marikano scored her first goal. 

She seemed to have already figured out University Stadium, as in the very next home game, Marikano scored all three of the team’s goals, delivering a 3-1 victory over the Brock Badgers. Marikano was the driving force in that game, scoring three goals within the first 52 minutes, to record her first career OUA hat-trick.   

“We all had a good mindset and it showed in our performances,” Marikano said about the opening games against Waterloo and Brock. 

“I think we were all looking for each other and playing as a team.”  

Marikano scored four goals in her first four games with the team and led Laurier in both shots and goals on the season. Playing in nine of the 10 games, Marikano had four of the team’s ten total goals and 20 of the team’s overall 80 shots, proving her worth as a striker. 

Marikano credits a huge portion of her first-year success to the culture of the program and the environment that Coach MacLean and his coaching staff created for the new players. 

“[Coach MacLean] and his coaching staff made sure we knew of what we came here to do and what we needed to accomplish to do that,” Marikano said. 

“He was very helpful and made sure that we stayed focused. He told us what he thought of us and what we could accomplish… making sure to push us in order to achieve those goals.” 

Coach MacLean has been a part of Laurier soccer, as a coach and player for the better part of three decades. The 1999 Golden Hawk Hall of Famer has been instrumental in making both the men’s and women’s soccer teams some of the most decorated programs across school history. An All-Canadian as a player in 1985, Coach MacLean brought his expertise as a leader and became coach of both the men’s and women’s teams in the late 1990’s. 

MacLean spent over ten years coaching the men’s soccer team, leading Laurier to back-to-back national championships in 2000 and 2001. This past year was MacLean’s 25th year coaching the women’s soccer program and the accolades are endless.

A three-time OUA coach of the year, MacLean has tallied close to 200 total wins in his women’s soccer head coaching career and has brought four provincial titles as well as one national title to the Golden Hawk trophy case – not including the men’s national championship wins. 

While MacLean and the team started well, they faltered down the stretch, dropping their last four games and finishing third in the OUA West division with 14 points. Marikano believes a big reason for the late-season defeats was their slow starts to the game. 

“The way that we started those games was the biggest problem,” Marikano said. “I think that we need to start every single game and play every single minute like it’s our last.” 

Three minutes into their road matchup against Windsor, Laurier conceded a goal, while the Gryphons scored just six minutes into their contest, putting the Golden Hawks behind early. 

A 4-0 loss in their final regular season game allowed the Gryphons to make the playoffs, while Laurier finished their season with a 4-4-2 record, missing the post-season for their second consecutive season. 

Marikano will use the next couple of months to focus on her academics, while also training and making sure she is in shape for next season. She will also return to the pitch, playing club football this summer in order to prepare for the Laurier season next fall. 

“I’ll definitely be training on my own and making sure that I come prepared and fit for this coming season,” Marikano said 

While the Golden Hawks would have liked to qualify for the playoffs this year, with players like Sasha Marikano, the team showed great potential this year. Coach MacLean and the Golden Hawks will look to build on that and take the next step forward come next fall.  

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