By: Tom Lewis
For Mark Reilly, back in the fold of the McMaster men’s soccer team after a year away, it’s good to be home.
The striker has found the net six times in nine games this season, helping his side to third in the OUA West standings, with a game in hand on second-placed Guelph, and two on runaway leaders York.
They face McMaster this weekend in a six-pointer having now won nine games on the bounce.
Reilly is enjoying his return to university soccer, after a year working as a kinesiologist.
“I’ve returned home. I love playing with these guys. We know how each other play on the field and have a blast off the field as well,” said Reilly.
He was quick to credit his fine run of form to the efforts of his fellow players.
“Scoring feels great, but I’m just the last one to touch the ball, my teammates create all the opportunities and without them I wouldn’t notch any goals. I owe them a lot,” said the Hamilton native.
But Reilly’s 12-month hiatus from the Marauder program was not always easy. The striker could be found in the stands and on the sidelines for many games as Mac looked to continue their run of raising championship banners.
“Watching the boys play from the stands was enjoyable. They played excellently and finished second in the table. They were a little unfortunate to fall out of the playoffs early last year, and really stung me. I wanted to be out there and help them win that OUA title for the fourth time in five years,” said Reilly.
His personal sporting journey took an exciting turn last year, as he was selected to play for Canada in the 2013 FISU games in Kazan, Russia.
“There is no greater feeling than representing your country on an international stage. We had a great bunch of guys travel to Russia and we performed very well, losing to Russia in the quarterfinals. Playing in front of 10,000 people that day gave me the chills, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” said Reilly.
Mac have made a convincing showing so far in their push for the OUA title, winning six games and drawing two others, suffering just one defeat in a tight game away to neighbouring Guelph.
Reilly and his teammates are targeting big things this season, and hope of silverware could be in the offing. “Medalling at Nationals is the top of our list this year. With the OUA having two berths, reaching the OUA finals will give us a chance to play in the CIS National Championships. However, we need to return the Blackwood trophy back to its rightful home – our changing room,” said Reilly.
Head coach Dino Perri was effusive in his praise for the forward.
“Mark has and will continue to have huge positive implications for our team on and off the field. His leadership, maturity, and experience have helped take the pressure off of other players while raising their level play. He adds another scoring threat and garners a great deal of attention from the opposition, freeing up other players to succeed.
“He has been a role model to the younger players, setting a great example of how to go about the daily training and preparation to be a successful varsity athlete,” said Perri.
Mac stumbled in their efforts to regain the Blackwood trophy last weekend with the loss at Guelph, but beat Waterloo 3-1 at Ron Joyce Stadium to set up an exciting second half of the OUA season.
They face York at home this Sunday, Oct. 5 in a fixture crucial to their hopes of gaining top spot.