WATERLOO, Ont. (August 28, 2015) - The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s soccer team will get their 2015 regular season underway on Saturday when they host the Algoma Thunderbirds for the first game of a weekend doubleheader at University Stadium.
Heading into their first game of the season, we take a look at how the team is shaping up and what to expect from the purple and gold in 2015.
This past offseason, the Golden Hawks said goodbye to a few players who had been mainstays on their roster for the last few years. Chief among them was four-time OUA All-Star midfielder Donald Chmura, along with midfielders Jordan Kotsopoulos and Cameron Stephen. Those three combined to play in 32 games and score five goals for the purple and gold last season and will be missed in the middle of the pitch by head coach MARIO HALAPIR.
The Hawks also lost goalkeeper Julien John, who started 14 games for Laurier last season, posting a 4-5-2 record, as well as forward Tyrrel Wilson, who had seven goals for the Hawks. Both players were transfers from the football team who brought great athleticism to the program.
Ten new players will suit up for Laurier this season to join a team that has a good mixture of veteran leadership and youth in its ranks.
Despite the loss of some key players, Laurier returns for 2015 with a large portion of their squad still intact from a year ago. Up front, Tommy Sitaridis of Toronto, last year’s team MVP, will lead the attack along with second year midfielder Nikola Miokovic of Kitchener, Ont. The two players scored 13 goals for the purple and gold last season and will be looked upon once again this year to spur the offence.
Also contributing to the offence will be fifth year forward Adrian Bucksam of Mississauga, Ont. Hampered by injuries last season, Bucksam will look to regain the form that saw him score five times for the Hawks in 2013.
In the midfield, third year Niklas Bauer of Newmarket, Ont., will anchor Laurier’s transition from defence to offence. With seven goals to his credit in his first two years, Bauer has shown the ability to make exciting plays in the offensive third of the pitch.
Playing in primarily a holding role in the midfield will be fifth year Justin Manning of Milton, Ont., who returns for his final year with the Hawks.
Defensively, Laurier looks to be very strong with four returning players who saw the majority of playing time last year. Veterans Blake Whiteley of Toronto, and Troy Puckerin of Burlington, Ont., will be joined by 2014 team Rookie of the Year Tahrik Rodriques of Scarborough, Ont., and fellow sophomore Luca Pietropaolo of Woodbridge, Ont.
After another playoff run which featured a thrilling upset for the Golden Hawks, Laurier will look to build on that overtime victory over Guelph as they try to move their way up the OUA West standings. The Hawks have finished sixth in the West division in each of the past three seasons but to move up, they will need to make up the seven points they trailed Windsor by for fifth in 2014.
A key to moving up for Laurier will be the play of their keepers and defence. The top five teams in the OUA West allowed 25 goals or fewer while the purple and gold conceded 33 last year. If they can cut down on the goals against, an improving offence should help the team pick up a few more victories.