Laurier fights back to tie; clinches playoff berth
It was a bittersweet weekend for the Laurier Golden Hawks men’s soccer team.
They fought back to a tie against the Windsor Lancers forcing a 1-1 draw on Sunday, following a 3-0 loss to the Western Mustangs on a rainy Saturday match.
The Golden Hawks struggled to find offence against a strong defensive opponent in the Mustangs, who picked up a clean sheet Saturday, holding the Hawks to just two shots on net.
“It’s a really tough time when most of your starting players are hurt and it can be tough to make adjustments,” said Laurier head coach Mario Halapir of Saturday’s loss.
“It was a tough loss, we didn’t have one regular guy in the back so considering that, it makes a difference.”
On Saturday, the bench was short for the Hawks as they had many unfamiliar faces on the field. The Mustangs played a patient game defensively and lit up the score sheet with an early goal in the 9th minute.
Western’s Rudy James would add a pair of goals later in the game to cushion Western’s lead.
A win would have allowed the Hawks to pull away from the Mustangs in the standings by six points, but the Mustangs defence was too much to handle for the third place Hawks.
“We had a lack of intensity, and coming to this point on the year this is where the players have to take a challenge, as it is coming close to the real crunch time and on their own they have to compete and realize this. I can’t say that all of our players have done that,” Halapir said.
The Hawks’ bench didn’t get any bigger on Sunday afternoon when they faced off against the Lancers and went forth with their injury-stricken squad.
The game was full of action early as the Lancers took a 1-0 lead going into half, with a rocket shot into the net by Windsor-native Cristian Mayorga in the 29th minute.
The Lancers fired off eight shots in the first half on Laurier goalkeeper Brett Harrington who was able to keep the Hawks fighting going into half, saving all the shots he faced including a phenomenal save on a breakaway attempt.
Laurier forward Sandro Stojakovic commented on Harrington’s stellar performance after the game.
“It’s awesome. I mean it all starts from the back, we need that kick start from the back to be a good team,” he said.
The second half was much better for the Hawks as they held the Lancers to only two shots and attacked the Lancers’ defence from all angles. Stojakovic booted home a loose ball in the 81st minute for a crucial goal late in the game to gain a point for the tie.
“It felt great, we needed the points and we could have risked falling in the standings, and it was good for the whole team,” Stojakovic said.
Despite chalking up a disappointing loss against the Mustangs and only picking up a tie against the Lancers, the Golden Hawks were able to clinch a playoff berth for the first time in two years.
The Hawks look to bounce back into the win column on Saturday as they take on the Guelph Gryphons at 3:15 p.m. on Alumni Field.
“Last time we played them we beat them, it was the second game of the season,” said Halapir.
“They have a decent offence that can be dangerous, and I don’t know who will be healthy and in the line up for us come then, so it’ll definitely be a challenge.”
By Brad Bowen