By Lucas Uggenti
A regular season that saw many highs and lows for the McMaster men’s soccer team is nearing an end, concluding yet another mediocre year in which the talented group finished third in their conference. This has grown to become a bit of a disappointment as the group has set expectations much higher than where they finished.
For a second-straight year, McMaster has finished third, a few points out of the top spot, which was somewhere the team believed they deserved to be. Ultimately, the team’s goal is an Ontario University Athletics championship, which would give them a berth into the national U Sports tournament.
This goal is still not out of the question, but McMaster will need to find a way to beat the inconsistent bug that has plagued the team for much of the season. Inconsistency has been the team’s Achilles’ heel early on in the season, but the Marauders have found ways to survive in games, squeaking out big points when necessary. This has come much to the chagrin of head coach Dino Perri.
“It was a pretty inconsistent season,” said Perri. “Because we had a young team, we were able to compete with the best in the league, while also dropping points to teams at the bottom of the table. That’s inconsistency.”
McMaster started the season off hot, winning their first three games, outscoring their opponents 8-2 during that stretch. Unfortunately, the Marauders hit a bump in the road only managing to muster five points out of possible 18 in their next six matches; they went 1-3-2 in that stretch.
“Our biggest strength is that we are a team,” Perri said. “There are many individuals on this roster that are capable of stepping up into the spotlight and playing well. Although we have good depth, consistency is something we lack, which hurts us.”
Hoping to play to their strengths as a team and build off of some bad performances, something sparked the Marauders as they found new life late in the season.
Following an inspired 1-1 draw against the defending champions, the York University Lions, McMaster then went on a tear, winning five of their next six games, including a 2-2 tie with the Wilfred Laurier University Golden Hawks.
This could not have come at a better time for McMaster, as the OUA playoffs are right around the corner. The Marauders’ expectations remain as high as they once were, accepting nothing less than a championship.
“Hopefully, we learned from our mistakes throughout the course of the season and build off this little hot run we’ve had late,” Perri said. "Anything can happen in the playoffs.”
In their annual season-ending games against the Algoma University Thunderbirds, the Marauders ended their season on a high note with back-to-back wins to finish with a 9-3-4 record. Powered by a Dusan Kovacevic hat-trick, the Marauders won their first game in Sault Ste. Marie in a 5-3 comeback. They followed that performance with a clean sheet, beating the Thunderbirds 6-0 on the back of freshman defender Miles Green’s four goals.
Men's Soccer -- FINAL: Dusan Kovacevic completed a hat trick late, as the Marauders scored three goals in the final five minutes to snatch all three points in Sault Ste. Marie. #GoMacGo pic.twitter.com/Kj0dywrs2a
— McMaster Athletics (@McMasterSports) 20 October 2018
McMaster finished the season in third place in the OUA West division, earning a first-round playoff match up against the University of Waterloo Warriors. This marks the first game of the playoffs for the Marauders, as they hope to forget about their inconsistent season and focus on what their future holds.
McMaster has the talent, the coaching and the right mentality to compete for a championship, and can only really defeat themselves by remaining inconsistent.
By Adriana Skaljin
The McMaster women's soccer team started off their 2018 campaign strong, and throughout the season, proved that they have become even stronger towards the end of it.
“This team has a lot of talent, so it is nice to see it translated into results," said team captain Stephanie Roberts.
Going into their last two games of the regular season, the Marauders sit with a record of 6-3-5; good enough for fourth place in the Ontario University Athletics West division. Their wins are results of their strong work ethic, as described by Roberts and echoed by her teammates.
Season highlights include their home opener against the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks on Aug. 24, and their six-point weekend at the end of September, with wins over the York University Lions and the University of Guelph Gryphons.
Their home opener against the Golden Hawks foreshadowed the strong season that followed, as the team began that game with a bang, getting up 3-0 in the first half. This allowed the team to cruise to season-opening 4-1 win.
"This was an amazing way to start off the season," Roberts said.
With York and Guelph traditionally being two of their strongest competitors, back-to-back games against these rivals were positioned to be a tough test for the Marauders. Coming out with six points over that weekend truly showed the strength of the McMaster team. In both games, the Marauders shut out their opponents with 1-0 wins.
Despite their dominant wins and solid ties throughout the season, the team did fall short of a few key victories.
Described as their toughest moment of the season, the team suffered a "winning drought" of six straight winless games. This included all three of their losses during this season, punctuated by a one-goal loss to the Western University Mustangs.
"This [challenge] caused us to work harder in practice," said Roberts. "We ended up coming back from this by beating two teams that were ahead of us in the standings."
The hard work paid off, as they women bounced back with four straight wins.
The team's greatest weakness seems to be that they are unlucky at times, resulting in ties and losses. Sometimes, the unlucky bounces just overpower the skills of the players. Including their 2-1 Sept. 21 loss to the Mustangs, where they blew a 1-0 lead early in the second half.
That score did not reflect their performance, as their strong defensive and offensive skills showed. This game is an example of the ways in which the scoreboard was not defined by their playing abilities.
“We have had some unfortunate breaks, but are overall playing good soccer,” head coach Joe Valvasori said.
Most recently, the Marauders collected a couple of 1-1 ties, tying Laurier in Waterloo, and returning home to tie the University of Waterloo Warriors. The team will next be travelling to Sault Ste. Marie to face the Algoma Thunderbirds in back-to-back games to close off their season.
Women's Soccer -- FINAL: The Marauders split the points in Waterloo. ⚽ pic.twitter.com/2ozUiplj7N
— McMaster Athletics (@McMasterSports) October 7, 2018
"We have always had success playing against them, so we are hoping to have successes again this year," explained Roberts. "However, these are a crucial six points and we cannot take any team lightly in our league, so it will definitely be a battle."
As the team moves forward towards the playoffs, they are hoping to finish in third or fourth, and are confident that they are talented enough to beat any team they may face. Their confidence and skill will definitely be exhibited in their upcoming games.
“As we near the end of our season, I can say with confidence that we now play more as a unit, and not just as individuals,” said Roberts.
Looking ahead to next season, the team anticipates that with the number of fifth-year students on the team, they will all definitely go out with a bang.
Catch their next games against the Thunderbirds on Oct. 20 and 21 at 1:00 p.m.