GUELPH, Ont. (October 22, 2014) – For the third consecutive season, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s soccer team has advanced to the OUA Quarter-finals as a sixth seed thanks to a 3-2 extra time victory over the third-seeded Guelph Gryphons on Wednesday night.
Facing off against the Gryphons in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year, the Hawks forced overtime with a last second tally from Blake Whiteley of Toronto, before Tyrrel Wilson of Hamilton, scored the eventual game-winner early in the first half of extra time.
“Reminiscent of last year but this year I think it’s even more important for us with the fact that we’ve done it with a very, very young team,” said head coach MARIO HALAPIR on his team’s victory following the match. “I think the biggest thing this year, we were actually full credit for this win. I don’t think it was just because it was the lucky goal at the end or whatever happened. We were full credit; we played very well. We’ve been getting better and better for the last four or five games and I think that’s a big, big plus for us being so young.”
“I thought when we equalized in the first half the momentum kind of switched and changed in our favour,” added fifth year midfielder Donald Chmura of Waterloo, Ont., one of the Hawks three scorers on the night. “In the second half, they came out flat and we came out the better team. Then when we tied it up, I kind of had a feeling we were going to win it so I’m not surprised we won.”
In typical fashion for this Laurier squad, the Hawks engaged in a thrilling brand of soccer from the opening whistle. Laurier and Guelph battled for every inch of space on the pitch but it was the Gryphons who got the better of the play in the opening 45 minutes. They were rewarded in the 24th minute when Stephen Veenema of Ottawa, broke down the wing and fired a shot past Hawks keeper Julien John of Oakville, Ont., to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
However, the Hawks regrouped and just six minutes later found the equalizer. After earning a free kick just outside the box, Chmura stepped up and fired one past the wall and Gryphons keeper Benjamin Caranci of Richmond Hill, Ont., to even the score at one.
“Well I noticed the whole game that the goalie was out of position or halfway up the field,” said Chmura when asked about his goal. “Mario actually told me to take a look at him when he was putting up his wall and he thought I was going to cross it in. So I just decided to go for it and I picked my spot and I was fortunate enough to put it in the back of the net.”
The second half saw Laurier start to take over the game more but despite their control of possession, they could not find a way to move in front.
Then, in the 89th minute, the Gryphons got a chance off a free kick and OUA leading scorer Jared Agyemang of Brampton, Ont., capitalized, finding a loose ball in the box and beating John to give Guelph a 2-1 lead.
With very little time to try and even the score, Laurier threw everyone forward, eventually earning themselves a corner. With everyone, including John, in the box, a loose ball fell to Whiteley who promptly fired it home just before the referee’s final whistle to send the game to extra time.
Entering the final 30 minutes with momentum firmly on their side, the Hawks continued to control the play and grabbed their first lead in the 98th minute. Wilson took a pass and broke in all alone on Caranci. The fourth year forward slipped the ball past the Gryphons keeper to give his squad their first lead of the match.
For the remainder of extra time, Laurier locked down the Gryphons, playing strong defence anchored by rookies Luca Pietropaolo of Nobleton, Ont., and Tahrik Rodriques of Scarborough, Ont., to come away with the victory.
“I think it was a team win tonight but especially you have to point out Luca and Tahrik both being first year guys,” added Halapir. “They were tremendous. That’s maturity beyond first year players. Luca was absolutely awesome, his game was beyond anything we expected but across the board, it was great play.”
With the win, the Hawks advance to the OUA Quarter-finals on Sunday, October 26 where, for the third year in a row, they will face the No. 1 York Lions. Game time is set for 3:15 p.m. at York Stadium and it will be webcast live on OUA.tv.