Soccer Hawks continue rivalry with York

Facing the defending national champions and the team that knocked them out of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs last season; the Golden Hawks men’s soccer team sent the York Lions home humbled on a humid Saturday afternoon with a come-from behind 1-1 draw at Alumni Field where the intense heat was matched by the intensity of the two teams’ rivalry.

The draw, by virtue of a Donald Chmura strike in the 60th minute, was the fourth consecutive deadlock between the two teams at Alumni Field over the last four seasons and the third by a score of 1-1. All three saw the Hawks tie the game late after spotting the Lions an early lead.

York got their lead after a deft through-ball found its way onto the foot of Alon Badat at the left-side of the 18-yard box. Badat got off a sharp-angled shot which got through first-year Laurier ‘keeper Brett Harrington.

Harrington, making his first start of his career for the Hawks, later made two remarkable saves to keep the score close, the first, a diving finger-tip save to his right, was followed quickly by a point-blank kick save.

This proved critical as minutes later a laser-guided throw-in to the box by defender Chris Walker found its way onto the feet of Chmura who took one touch and launched it into the back of the net to preserve the draw and earn the Hawks their first point of the season.

The intense match, which saw Laurier receive four yellow cards, was yet another continuation of one of the more entrenched rivalries in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) soccer.

The Hawks were the only team to defeat the Lions in the 2008 post-season, winning the OUA Championship in extra-time on the Lions’ home field. York would go on to win the CIS Championship that year before dispatching the Hawks 2-0 in the OUA quarter-finals last year en-route to yet another CIS Championship.

The team that lost last year however is a far-cry from the one that took to the field over the weekend. Head coach Mario Halapir is cautious that with 15 rookies and just two players left from the squad that won that 2008 provincial championship, the Hawks may have a steep learning curve.

“It’s the first year I’ve really done recruiting. We’ll have a challenging start, a slow start, unless we can mature quickly” noted Halapir.

Despite those words the Hawks showed poise under pressure this past weekend in the fixture against York as well as the 1-0 victory over the visiting Guelph Gryphons on Sunday. Impressive for a team so young; there are more first-years on the roster than all other academic years combined.

However, Halapir notes “the one advantage we have is we have some depth, which we’ve never had before. We are able to play a bit which is far more enjoyable, in the past we coached what we had to with what we had.”

That depth was on display when Halapir used all 10 of Laurier’s allotted substitutions, half of which came at half-time, to change the tempo of the game to his liking and the Hawks’ advantage. Laurier controlled the game in the second half allowing Chmura to level the score mid-way through.

The Hawks are on the road this weekend against Western and Windsor. Their next home game is September 18th against Brock.