Soccer Hawks lose their sixth-seed magic; fall to Marauders
Men’s soccer head coach Mario Halapir had one word to sum up the season for his team — progressive.
For the last three years, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks came into the first round of the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Ontario University Athletics West division and eliminated the third seed to advance to the quarter-finals.
But this year played out differently, as the Hawks were eliminated 2-0 by the McMaster Marauders on Oct. 24.
With the loss, the end of the season also marked the end of the first step in Halapir’s plan to create a culture change within the team — something that he has been working with the team on since the beginning of the 2015 campaign.
“This is our year to try and start changing the culture of men’s soccer at Laurier,” Halapir said. “The reason why I say ‘progressive’ is because I think this is a good step, I think we made a step in the right direction. The change of culture in anything, it takes time, and sports is no different.”
“Any organization requires a culture change; it takes a process.”
This culture change was put in place earlier in the season due to the large amount of turnover this and having a young team. Halapir saw this as an opportunity to begin the process of shifting the culture in a different direction. The Hawks struggled over the last eight games of the season to find the back of the goal, but Halapir is not disappointed with the way the Hawks played against one of the top teams in the OUA.
“It’s a big step for us, getting into the playoffs as young as we are,” he said.
That being said, Halapir also believes that not being able to score for an extended amount of time could have gotten in players’ heads prior to the game.
“It was one of those things that it seemed just in the last little bit of the season, we didn’t have a lot of luck going our way. But it’s not to take away from our boys because I believe that we actually did well. We played well. We just couldn’t,” Halapir explained.
“I think it was a bit mental. Once you have a few games where you’re not scoring, I think it does get into your brain.”
Although the outcome was unfavourable, Halapir was realistic about the differences between this year’s team and previous years, and focused more on the opportunity given to him with the players on the team.
“I even said to them before the game, that in past years I would have told you that ‘I always go into it thinking we are going to win,’ but there’s a realism point to sport, and understanding that if one team plays their top team and another team plays their top team — one team is going to come out on top. In the past years I would have thought that quality-wise, with most of the teams we played,” Halapir explained.
With the culture change in place and a group of young players that will be around to form next year’s team, Halapir is excited for the direction men’s soccer is headed. There are a few recruits that will round out the losses in the form of XX XX XX XX.
“I think we have enough quality now, and I think the boys are a lot better. I think we have enough tools that we can now at least work on something and try to work together, and I’m motivated to have the next few years be a real change over in our soccer program,” Halapir said.