The journey to the top of the nation

Photo by Jessica Dik

Photo by Jessica Dik

The Wilfrid Laurier University women’s soccer team can feel the flame igniting.

With three wins this week over the Guelph Gryphons, Brock Badgers and McMaster Marauders, they move to 8-0-1 in the season. That gives them 25 points in the standings, better than any other team in either Ontario University Athletics division.

That point total puts Laurier just ahead of the two other powerhouses in the OUA West, the Western Mustangs and York Lions who have 24 and 22 points respectively. Laurier’s only tie this season came against the Mustangs.

This week’s performance also leapfrogs the Hawks to No. 3 in the country, their highest since 2012 when they were ranked first in the nation.

The next three games sawthe Hawks stack up against the Lions and Mustangs at home, then the Lions again on the road. According to head coach Barry MacLean, it was an ideal start to the year given the schedule ahead.

“Well I’m very happy with the results, I mean we were looking to get the full nine points because we are going to go into a tough stretch of games. We needed to be in the position that we were in, so we won the games and that was the most critical piece,” he said.

Despite some key injuries on the squad, they still boast the top two scorers in the league in Emily Brown and Nicole Lyon. Brown’s scoring output, with 13 goals so far, is no surprise as she led all scorers last year with 21. Lyon on the other hand notched 13 goals last year. In nine games, Lyon has already scored 11 goals.

MacLean is proud of his two dynamic players and believes they both bring a different touch to the game when on the field.

“They have both been outstanding in different ways. Emily is just a pure goal scorer and the amount of work that she puts into the game and her strike ratio and finishing is fantastic. Nicole gives us a lot of creativity — she can play a little bit deeper, closer to midfield,” he said.

“Those two are very dangerous but we have other threats to score goals for sure.”

With the tough schedule ahead, MacLean isn’t planning anything special. He believes if his team sticks to what has gotten them this far, they will fare well against the top teams in in the OUA West and may return to the national platform.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are prepared physically, mentally, on the things we have to do to try and win those games, and try to stick to a game plan to make success,” he said.

The hot start to the year has allowed MacLean and the Hawks to keep their eyes on the prize, and put a disappointing year behind them by bringing home a national championship banner.

“We don’t want to make it to nationals, we want to win it,” said MacLean.

“Ultimately we’d like to finish first in the division, first in Ontario and first in nationals. They’re lofty goals and they are tough ones and there’s a lot of teams that you’d have to better but that would be the ultimate goal.”

The Hawks will look to stay undefeated as they welcome the No. 5 Lions to University Stadium on Oct. 1 at 6 p.m.

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