Men’s soccer focused on improvement and consistency through their final four games
After losing its first three games of the season in their return to the pitch, Coach Mario Halapir and his men’s soccer team has shown improvements throughout the last two weeks, picking up four points over their previous three games.
After a year away from competition, and absent exhibition games, the men’s soccer team struggled out of the gate this year, losing back-to-back contests against Waterloo by a combined score of 6-0. Since then, Laurier has recovered well, finding their offense in a 4-3 victory over Brock last weekend, before drawing Western in the past week.
“It was a little bit of a wake-up call for everybody,” Halapir said of the opening “battle of Waterloo” matchups.
“We were always going to have some ups and downs, but we’ve made some strides for sure, and I was really pleased with how quickly we responded,” Halapir said.
Laurier is near the bottom of the OUA standings, tied for sixteenth in the conference, with only four points on the season. The young Golden Hawks team will play four more games on the year and will need to win as many of them as possible if they hope to be one of the eight teams to qualify for the November playoffs.
“Everything is possible, we are still in the hunt for the playoffs, and I truly believe if everything comes together, we can achieve it… we for sure have the capability for it,” he said of the team’s playoff aspirations.
Coach Halapir is entering his fourteenth season with the team and always knew that this year would be an adjustment period, given the many fresh faces. Only 10 players on their 35-man roster were a part of the 2019 team that barely missed the playoffs. The current program features several first and second-year student-athletes who have yet to experience OUA competition, a challenge for schools across Ontario.
“We’re carrying a squad of 35 players and out of those 35, 25 are first or second-year players… it does take an adjustment,” Halapir said.
“Generally, seven of our starting 11 players are guys who have never seen OUA action. Throwing them in like this is good and bad, it makes it difficult, but you are able to see who sinks and who swings,” he said.
While it certainly makes things difficult for this season, the minutes given to the younger student-athletes are an invaluable experience for them as they begin their time with the Golden Hawks soccer program.
First-year political science major, Sebastian Lach has made the most out of the minutes, scoring four of the team’s seven goals, on just five shots. In the 4-3 victory over Brock last weekend, Lach recorded a hat-trick and had the game winner.
“I think Sebastian is one of the up-and-coming players who has tremendous potential. As long as he remains committed to the task, I think he has a really bright future,” Halapir said of their leading goal scorer.
The men’s soccer program made a commitment before the pandemic to rebuild the program from ground up and have put much of their focus on the long-term development of many of their student-athletes, looking for constant improvement and hoping the results come with that.
“It’s not going to happen in two weeks or three months, it is probably going to take a year or two to get back to the level that we want to get too,” Coach Halapir said.
“The experience that the players are gaining is important, but we have to be realistic [about] where we are now from an experience point of view,” he continued.
Laurier took a step-back this past Sunday, dropping their most recent competition 1-0, after Western scored off a controversial throw-in. With such a young squad, no exhibition games and two of their starting mid-fielders on the injured list, Coach Halapir is hoping the team can catch a break and string together four strong performances in the final stretch of the season.
The Golden Hawks will resume action this weekend, with a chance to move up the standings during a home-and-home against the Windsor Lancers. Following the two Winsor contests, Laurier will travel to Guelph to play one of the top teams in Ontario before finishing the season at home against the undefeated Gryphons.
“I’m hoping the last four games we can put together a consistent performance and show steps towards the betterment of what we do,” Coach Halapir said.
“I always tell the boys that the winning comes along with a great performance. We just got to get to that point, where mentally and physically we are prepared to take that next step.”
The Golden Hawk will be back on the pitch this Friday night in Windsor, needing points to keep their playoff aspirations alive.