PREVIEW: Laurier men’s soccer

File photo by Matt Smith

File photo by Matt Smith

The Wilfrid Laurier University men’s soccer team is going through a ‘changing of the guard.’ Led by head coach Mario Halapir, the team posted a 5-8-3 record in 2014 and earned them a spot in the playoffs, where they upset the third-seeded Guelph Gryphons for the second straight year in a row in a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory. It was the third straight year the Hawks came into the first round of the playoffs as the sixth seed and upset the third-seeded team on their home turf.

The team will have a different look this season, as 16 of the 2014’s 33 man roster are not returning. The Hawks will have veterans Tommy Sitaridis and Adrian Bucksam leading in the striker position. Both players are in their fifth year of eligibility, with Sitaridis tied with two other Hawks in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) goal scoring categories with nine in 2014. Midfielders Niklas Bauer and Nikola Miokovic will be looking to add both offensive and defensive depth to the Hawks. Miokovic, coming into his second-year with the Hawks, scored six goals while Bauer would add three tallies and an assist in 2014.

At the back end, the team’s young defence got a year older. Defenders Tahrik Rodriques and Luca Pietropaolo are coming off stellar rookie seasons, stepping up to close out the Gryphons in postseason play. Fifth-year Blake Whiteley will add a veteran presence.

The starting goalkeeper position is up for grabs as Julien John decided not to return for a second season.

The team experienced huge turnover this upcoming season, shrinking their roster to 27 athletes while adding 10 new recruits, adding depth in every position and giving more options for Halapir on the field.

The team kicks off their regular season on Aug. 29 when the Algoma Thunderbirds come to town. Kickoff is at 3:15 p.m. at University Stadium.

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