Soccer Hawks strive for redemption

Coming into last season, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s soccer team was riding an incredible high.

They were defending Ontario University Athletics (OUA) champions. Provincial all-star Alex Doma was back along with a host of key returning players. And highly touted rookie goalkeeper Jarrett Humphreys appeared to be the perfect replacement for the departed Yousef El-Abbar.

But as the 2009 season began to unfold, everything came crashing down.

“Last year, everything that could go wrong went wrong,” said head coach Mario Halapir. “We weren’t a much worse team than we were the previous year when we won the provincial title, but we battled a lot of injuries.”

The Hawks started the year 0-2-2 and quickly fell into last place in the OUA west, struggling to string wins together throughout the season. To make matters worse, player after player went down to injury and by the final game of the season, the Hawks’ lineup was missing almost all of if its original starters.

The end result was a three-win season, with the Hawks missing the playoffs for the first time in the team’s history.

“In the final game we did have eight or nine guys out, but at the end of the day, the bench has to be ready to step in,” said Humphreys.

“Obviously it was disappointing getting knocked out in the last game last year, but I think that can be something that’ll light a fire under us for this year.”

The Hawks now turn their sights to this season, a year in which they will look to rebound and put their struggles behind them. It’s a goal Halapir says is rather simple.

“It’s done,” he said of last season.

“It’s easy to move on. The past is the past. Winning national championships, winning provincial championships, that’s in the past too. You can’t dwell on it, it’s all about what’s happening to today and that’s what we’re focusing on.”

The Hawks have gotten off to a good start this season, rolling through their pre-season schedule, outscoring their opponents 12-0 over three games.

“There’s been a really exciting atmosphere in camp,” said Humphreys.

“All the new guys that have come in have really stepped up and put a lot of pressure on the returning players and the returning guys have come in with a lot of fire too and I think it’s translating into a lot of good performances on the field and a newfound depth that we didn’t have last year.”

That depth appears to be the biggest improvement for this Hawks’ squad, and considering the injuries that ravaged the team last season, it’s something they clearly needed.

“We have a lot of talent coming off the bench and that’s a definite improvement this year,” said Humphreys. “We’ve seen it through the pre-season where we’ve had guys who aren’t our usual starters on the field and the level of play is the same.”

Despite all the optimism surrounding this season the Hawks got some bad news over the summer as Doma – who was an OUA all-star once again in 2009 – tore his ACL and will miss the entire season.

“You can’t replace a player like that,” said Halapir.

“His heart and his leadership are going to be missed for sure. But it’s one of those situations where the team must go on and survive.”

Both of WLU’s soccer teams kicked off their seasons yesterday afternoon vs. the Waterloo Warriors, for stories on those games visit thecord.ca.

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