Men’s soccer looks to finish season strong

A largely unexpected rousing and spirited start to the season by Wilfrid Laurier’s men’s soccer squad makes this cruel twist of fate even harder to stomach.

Jarrett Humphreys, the Golden Hawks’ starting netminder was sidelined indefinitely by his third concussion in a year from a game versus the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks in late September.

Playing beyond his years as a sophomore, Humphreys was instrumental in his team’s quick start to the young season, and always the stalwart vocal presence, he could frequently be heard directing plays and alerting teammates of danger on the pitch from his crease.

Now, the team’s 2009-10 rookie of the year’s leadership and advice will need to be heeded from the sidelines in the form of encouragement to his mates on the field, at least for the time being.

“To be honest, I’m not expecting him back,” said head coach Mario Halapir. “If it happens, great. But my first concern is with his health.”

Humphreys’ history with concussions and head trauma will play a critical factor when he sees doctors this week concerning details on the extent of the injury and a possible return date, added the coach.

However, when cruel fate plays its hand, it manages to leave one door open in its wake and Martyn Hooker has certainly made the most of his impending opportunity as the Hawks’ starting keeper.

The second-year Brantford native has collected two shutouts in three games in his new role, and while Hooker has kept his defensive end of the bargain up, both those shutouts have converted to only ties, as Laurier knotted Western and Windsor in scoreless draws last week.

Hooker even managed to have his one loss converted to a win after an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) ruling turned a 3-1 defeat into a 1-0 victory for Laurier when Windsor was caught with an illegal, unrecorded substitution on Oct. 3.

“Marty’s stepped forward,” noted Halapir. “He’s done an admirable job. He’s going to make errors. Jarrett made errors. Every goalie’s going to make errors. It’s his confidence that has to evolve in order to limit those errors. He kept us in the game [on Saturday].”

“It’s been a little stressful at times, but I’ve just got to step in and be composed for the team,” said Hooker of his new role. “They’re helping me out well and I’ve just got to do my part in net. It’s been easy.”

Hooker’s transition to starting goalkeeper has been made all the more simple by the large support that Humphreys has given the newcomer.

“Jarrett’s done a great job of working with him in practice,” observed Halapir. “That’ll go a long way.”

Indeed the track suit donned by Humpreys on game day is a far cry from his usual light blue attire that’s provided the team with a source of constant comfort and composure in net. But with the two goose eggs gathered so far, Hooker can stamp his own mark on the young team with his continued strong play.

Along with Humphreys’ guidance, midfielder Steve Hay played a little guardian angel to preserve Hooker’s second shutout on Saturday vs. Windsor, halting a free kick by Lancers’ star Arlo Hemkes on the goal-line behind the stricken keeper.

“I didn’t anticipate it well enough, I was kind of expecting it in the air more, and I had to come out a bit,” recalled Hooker. “It was nowhere near me.”

“[The ball] just cleared everyone and I think it went off my leg and went for a corner,” smiled Hay. “We got lucky there.”

Halapir preached a better effort to his squad after the match but as long as teammates like Humphreys and Hay have Hooker’s back, it’ll be the ailing offence that will need to match the new keeper’s pace.

Yesterday, the Hawks saw their seven-game unbeaten streak snapped as they fell 3-2 to the Guelph Gryphons.

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