Grads say goodbye as men’s soccer team falls in quarterfinal

It would’ve been easy for the large contingent of first-years on the Golden Hawks men’s soccer team to shuffle off York University’s pitch in frustration and anger after their season had been snuffed out by the first-placed Lions in their 2-0 quarterfinals loss on Saturday.

But Ben Clifford has a message for the distraught youngsters.

Enjoy it. Savour the moment. Even in heartbreak, it goes fast.

“I’ve learned so much,” said the graduating captain. “Not just in terms of soccer, but about life; [coach Mario Halapir] has taught me so much about work ethic and commitment.”

A slow start, which characterized many of the squad’s games this year, was ultimately the team’s bane when they were bounced Saturday.

York’s star player and league leader in goals Adrian Pena capitalized on a play featuring a stumbled Hawk in the first minute; writing Laurier’s season obituary in the process, forcing the Hawks to play catch-up.

“We broke down on our shutdown plays, which we worked on Friday,” said Halapir. “It’s very tough to rebound from a goal that happens that quickly.”

“That definitely took a toll on the guys,” added Clifford. “We were able to come back against Guelph [in the first round], but when you’re on the road playing a quality team like York, it’s a lot more difficult.”

Regardless, Halapir is happy that his band of newcomers got a crash course on playoff soccer in their inaugural year.

“Dealing with playoff pressure is important,” he said. “Overall, I’m very, very pleased with the way this season ended up, much more than last year …. We have no regrets.”

And just as the Hawks can notch a successful second round post-season experience to their resume moving forward, the elder statesmen on the team have said their final goodbyes to Alumni Field.

Among those removing the purple and gold from their wardrobe include Clifford, Spencer Cawker, Zach Faubert-Tetreault, Eamonn Hardy, Josh Moore, Matt Mori, Matt Smith and the injured Alex Doma.

“They’ve been a great asset to the program,” said Halapir. “But I’m confident in the fact that we have a solid group of guys coming back.”

In the meantime, Clifford has his sights set on Milltown FC in his hometown of Milton in the Canadian Soccer League.

“Soccer’s been a big part of who I am,” said the captain, and while Laurier is losing its devoted soccer chief to graduation, Clifford thinks the team will do more than fine next year. “It’s a great bunch of guys; Mario has some talent to work with…. The future looks bright for Laurier soccer.”

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