Photo by McMaster Athletics
The 2017 Ontario University Athletics Final Four did not go as the Marauders had planned. Ending the season at second place in the OUA West division, the team looked like they had a strong chance at moving on to the national championships.
Unfortunately, the trip was never meant to be as Mac struggled in their playoff matches, falling short of bringing home any hardware. The end to the season felt undeserved, but those tough-to-accept losses are far behind the 2018 team as they face the challenges of this young season.
This season appeared to be a tough test right from the start for the Marauders as a significant number of upper-year players were put on a team suspension and were forced to sit out the first four games of the season. This left a hole in leadership, calling for younger players to step up.
One such player is Antonio Sereno, a third-year winger who started six of the 13 games he played in last season. This season he had to step up and be one of the players to lead by example.
“I got to be more of a leader on the field this year because most of the guys were suspended,” Sereno said. “I was one of the older guys, so you kind of have to lead the way, show the rookies and set an example.”
That is something that Sereno accomplished on the field during Mac’s Aug. 31 game against the Western Mustangs, when the third-year notched a goal in the eightieth minute. It was his first goal of the season and gave the Mac men their third straight win to start the year.
Sereno points to the culture of the team, a united front of rookies and veterans, as a key reason why the Marauders were able to remain successful despite some holes in the roster.
“Everybody’s on the same page,” Sereno said. “We just really clicked. It’s like we’ve been playing for a while, but realistically, it’s been three, four weeks and yet everybody’s just on the same page.”
“Everybody wants to be there,” Sereno added. “We celebrate every goal as a team. It’s like we’ve won a championship. Even here at Mac, you got to go over the stands but we just jump up. I love it. Like even at Western, guys are running across the field. It’s amazing.”
Throughout their six games, Mac has mostly played in close contests, boasting a goal differential of +4. This is in line with Mac’s style as Sereno described the Marauders as a team that excels on the counter-attack.
“We do our job defensively everybody works hard, and then on the counter we just we just click,” Sereno said. “I don’t think we’re more of an offensive team, we just work hard defensively and then when we get that chance we go.”
However, the counter-attack was missing over the weekend as the Marauders had a tough time on the pitch, scoring one goal in two games against York and Guelph. They will need to work hard to get that counter-attack back on track and luckily head coach Dino Perri has been able to keep the team competitive while training.
“Like [coach Perri] says, nobody has a guaranteed spot on the team, anybody could come in,” Sereno said. “Rookies could come in and fill in spots without any problem and it’s just the hard work people are putting in. Everybody’s working hard, even in training. I love to see it. It’s amazing.”
After a Sept. 14 match against Brock, Mac will get a little break over Homecoming weekend, where they can use that hard work and grit to prepare for the last part of the season. Sereno believes that this team can end this season with a better result than last year, but to do so they will need to put the work in.
“I just hope things go our way,” Sereno said. “There’s a lot of potential on our team and, like [coach Perri] said, if we work and we want to get to that next step I think Nationals is possible for us. That’s how much talent and potential we have, we just got to put our mind to it and work.”
Six games into the season, coach Perri and the Marauders are on the right track to amass another successful season on the pitch. With a long road still ahead to the end of the regular season, the team will need to continue to work hard if they want to pull ahead in a division full of tough teams.