As the play-offs approach, the Marauders look back on a brilliant regular season

Last season the men's soccer team made reasonable progress throughout the regular season, with an overall record of 6-3-2, earning them a place in the playoffs. Unfortunately, this euphoria was short lived, and the Marauders came out crashing in the first round, where they lost against Carleton Ravens three to one. This year they’re looking for more. 

The team had a very successful regular season this time around, finishing with a very impressive 8-3-1 record and earning them second place spot in the OUA Central Division, just behind Toronto Metropolitan University.  

“I think that the regular season was very good. We ended up finishing second place in our division, which is the best place Mac has finished in the past ten years. So, of course we were very happy about it as a team,” said Justin Baker, a second year life sciences student playing as a midfielder for the Marauders. 

“I think that the regular season was very good. We ended up finishing second place in our division, which is the best place Mac has finished in the past ten years. So, of course we were very happy about it as a team.”

Justin Baker, Midfielder on the Men's Soccer Team

The team entered the playoffs on a high note, but they have a difficult road ahead. The first matchup for them will be the Guelph Gryphons.  

“There’s a lot of momentum going into the playoffs this season, we have our first game against Guelph in the quarterfinals which should be a great game. What motivates us even more is that we lost against them in regular season, so we want some revenge,” explained Baker. 

Another aspect that shapes up any team is the chemistry and the atmosphere that gets built up in the squad over time. Prior to the playoffs, it’s key that the group is in good spirits, as the pressure can only build from game to game in the final stages of the championship.  

“We are all feeling good on the team. We have been putting a lot of energy into training just for the preparations against Guelph. We are all very confident in our abilities and confident that we can get the result we need against them. It would motivate us even more if we beat them on Saturday,” said Baker. 

Baker also transfered from Simon Fraser University, Canada’s only NCAA affiliated soccer team. He is one of the players that debuted for McMaster this year. According to his McMaster Athletics profile, he achieved a total of 250 minutes over nine games for the Marauders, proving that his potential is not to be overlooked. In the last game of the season against Laurier, he even scored the game winning goal, securing the Marauders four to one victory.  

“Over the course of this season I played quite well. I drifted between playing in a center mid to a winger position, as I like playing both positions. It’s been good getting chemistry with the team through playing consistently, which is something great for my first year here,” explained Baker. 

Being a newer member of the team, it took some time for Baker to adjust to the style of play, something even the most experienced players experience to some extent. As the season progressed, he began to embrace a larger role with the team, quickly adjusting and becoming more comfortable, leading to his late season success. 

“Although I didn’t start off playing every game, near the end of the season I integrated myself more with the team, which helped me gain more confidence. To end the regular season, I scored a goal against Laurier which felt amazing,” said Baker.  

“Although I didn’t start off playing every game, near the end of the season I integrated myself more with the team, which helped me gain more confidence. To end the regular season, I scored a goal against Laurier which felt amazing.”

Justin Baker, Men's Soccer Team

Although they have been here before, the Marauders certainly feel that there is potential to progress further than the quarter finals in the championship. Their first playoff game is on Sat. Oct. 29, against the Guelph Gryphons at 1:00 PM. 

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There will be a new Yates Cup champion this year.

“Birds flying high” are the lyrics the McMaster Marauders run onto the field to, but on Saturday those words rung truer for the Laurier Golden Hawks.

Both schools have flight as the common theme of their mascots, but the story of this game was all action on the ground.

Led by  the 259 rushing yards from Laurier running back  Dillon Campbell, the No. 6 Laurier Golden Hawks upset the No. 3 McMaster Marauders 29-15 to advance to the OUA semifinals. Laurier simply stole the show from McMaster in their OUA Football Quarterfinal game at Ron Joyce Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 31.

There is no other way to put it.

Far from an aerial assault team, McMaster Offensive Coordinator Jon Behie thinks Laurier did enough through the air with a couple explosive plays to keep the McMaster defense honest.

“They’re not a team that will call 80 percent pass plays and get 500 yards on you, but they’re dangerous,” Behie said.

On the very first play of the game second-year Golden Hawks quarterback Eric Morelli threw a deep ball to wide receiver Carson Ouellette for a 46-yard gain. That was the beginning of a five-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. On their third drive Laurier pulled out the trickery and continued to attack the McMaster secondary with a Wide Receiver Reverse Pass that saw wide receiver Daniel Bennett hit fellow wide receiver Zeph Fraser for a 49-yard gain. In the second quarter a Golden Hawks five-play, 98-yard touchdown drive was jumpstarted by a Morelli pass to Bennett for a 56-yard completion.

“I think they had some shots dialed up. They had a gameplan for stuff they saw on film and wanted to exploit”, said Behie. “They didn’t have to pass a lot on Saturday but they dialed up some shots and they worked. Give them full credit for executing.”

Although those few plays were Laurier’s demonstration of explosiveness through the air, the slow and steady pounding on the ground throughout the entire game eventually became too much for McMaster. On the ground, Laurier more than established their rushing attack amassing 327 total rushing yards on 44 carries. This was allowed by a McMaster defense that was first in the OUA in rushing yards allowed conceding 122.8 yards/game on the ground to opponents.

“Dillon Campbell is one of the best backs in OUA history. He was the OUA MVP last year and giving the ball to him 40 times is smart on their behalf. Their offensive line played a great game and we just weren’t able to do anything about it,” Behie said.

McMaster’s usually potent pass offense was muzzled in a way on Saturday. Despite completing 20 passes on 31 attempts for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, McMaster quarterback Asher Hastings was sacked four times and flushed out of the pocket several times.

His rhythm was disrupted by Laurier’s defensive front.

Prior to this game, Hastings was sacked 10 times in eight games. The Golden Hawks defense almost racked up half of that. It was uncharacteristic for a Marauders offensive line that has been great at protecting their record-breaking signal caller all year.

“Our strength of our offense this year has been keeping our quarterback clean and giving him a clean pocket to set his feet and find our receivers and that wasn’t necessarily the case on Saturday,” said Behie. “Full credit to Laurier’s front four. They played outstanding.”

McMaster can only look back on this tough loss and learn from it. Spring training camp will come soon enough but the Marauders’ football season was definitely cut abruptly short.

“I think anyone in our organization would say that we underachieved. We thought we were capable of a lot more. We’re extremely disappointed and we think we’re better than that. Our fans, student body, and campus deserves better than that. I think we have to remain motivated to work harder in the offseason to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Behie.

Next for McMaster football are season evaluations and recruiting. Nothing specific can be said about next year now as it’s way too early and the loss is still fresh, but the outlook remains positive.

“Our coaches will attend clinics and staff meetings to evaluate and figure out our next steps and we’ll continue to evolve and improve. Now our main focus is on recruiting and getting the best possible class for 2016,” Behie said.

McMaster finished 6-3 overall this season.

Photo Credit: Daniel Higgins

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