By: Justin Parker
Injuries and inexperience have been the pillars of adversity during this year’s campaign for the men’s soccer team.
Mental errors and mistakes have cost the team multiple games this year. Just as a game looks wrapped up for Mac, an untimely turnover or a lapse in defence has led to winnable games turning into disappointing ties or loses.
In a league where they are accustomed to sitting at the top, the Marauders find themselves sitting in fifth place in the Ontario University Athletics West division, recording 15 points through 11 games while sporting a 4-4-3 record.
Heading into the final game of a three-game road trip, things were starting to look good for the team. In their last two road games, the men were able to secure wins over the Brock Badgers and the Waterloo Warriors, with scores of 1-0 and 3-1 respectively. Having beaten teams lower in the standings, the Marauders were hoping to carry their momentum against the Western Mustangs, who they previously beat in their first game of the season 2-0 at home.
This time around, Mac wasn’t able to repeat their previous performance, falling 4-1 in London, marking only the second time this season where the Marauders have allowed four goals in a game. In their return home to Ron Joyce Stadium on Oct. 2, Mac was unable to hold onto a late lead, eventually settling for a 1-1 draw to the sixth-placed Windsor Lancers.
According to head coach Dino Perri, the game plan and talent is all there, it just comes down to the execution.
“We were facing a tough team and were not up to the challenge,” Perri said after their loss to Western. “There are no answers for it. We had the right game plan but didn’t execute, made silly mistakes, and mental errors.”
Fortunately for Mac, they still sit in playoff position, with the top six teams in each division making the OUA playoffs. After a tough season plagued with injuries, the team had their confidence fall momentarily. Coach Perri believes the team can get it back and that they’re still capable of winning the games they need to.
“We have the bodies and the talent, we just need to stop making mental errors and execute.”
Injury woes seem to be coming to an end, as Kody Kazda and Sasha Ricciuti are on their way back to the field as they start training next week.
With a week off following Thanksgiving, the Marauders will have a chance to readjust their lineup moving forward and reintegrate the players who have missed time due to injury.
After the break, Mac has four games remaining to get things up to speed, so that they are firing on all cylinders come playoffs. Although they are not in the position they hoped to be, they are still in good form. Perri believes the team just needs to all come together and execute moving forward.
This is a turning point for the Marauders’ 2016 season, and each week continues to be a test on a team that has not had an easy road. It’s not too late for the team to rise in the rankings and provide upsets along the way.
And who knows; come playoff time, anything is possible.