BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW
With the sour taste of a bitter playoff loss to the University of Western Ontario still lingering, the 2004 Laurentian University men's soccer squad
has plenty of motivation to fuel their quest for Ontario University Association (OUA) soccer supremacy this season.
With a solid core of returning veterans, head coach Carlo Castrechino is pumped for a go at an OUA championship.
"We have the talent and experience to win our division," said Castrechino. "With teams from York, Toronto and Nipissing, which is improving every season, the division is going to be tough. We have set small goals first, like playing competitive soccer and making the playoffs, then continue to get better each and every game leading up to the playoffs and, hopefully, win an OUA title in the end."
The Voyageurs will be strong up front and on defence.
Key returning forwards are Giuseppe Politi and Szymon Niedzwiecki. Both players are keen on the ball and possess incredible skill and striking ability.
The midfield will be strong as well, with Stephen Soutar, Paul Lammens and Luis Andrez looking to thwart the enemy. The three bring stability with their ball control and passing.
The defence will be stingy again, with Jeff Collins, Wellesley Robertson and Ryan Armstrong forming the backbone. All three have grown together over the last three seasons and will throw up a tough defence around the goal.
In goal, the squad has graduated both of their goalkeepers, and will go with rookies in the position. Watch for the defence to be extremely forceful with opposing forwards as they attack.
The club will also welcome University of Western Ontario transfer Joe Jesseau to the ranks. He brings another element of attack to the offence with his striking prowess.
"I believe our strength will come from the forwards," said Castrechino. "We should have a very explosive attack. This season, we have many returning veterans at every position and if we stay relatively healthy, we should be able to compete hard every game and produce some wins. We need to be especially strong as a team in defence, as our keepers have very little experience at this level. But I am confident they will get better after each and every practice and game."
Midfielder Soutar and his teammates are eager to avenge last year's playoff upset.
"This year's focus is to win," said Suter. "Last year, we came up short with a tough loss to Western. We have a lot of veterans returning, so we want to capitalize on that and have a winning season. The Western loss left a bitter taste in everybody's mouth, so we want to stay focused, not forget about it and take it to move forward. We know what it takes to win."
Politi is also hungry for the season to start to live up to expectations.
"There's always soccer pressure at Laurentian because they have a rich tradition and we have a good team this year," said Politi. "We are looking to build off of last year and, hopefully, get a division title in the OUA. The playoffs are very important to us. We want to leave our mark and make the nationals. We have a lot of veterans and leadership. Our strength is up top and we will be looking to score as many goals as we can."
The squad also welcomed back Sudbury boy and former LU soccer stand out, Dan Falcioni, to the coaching ranks.
The men's season starts this weekend with games against York and Toronto on Saturday and Sunday. Game time for both is 1 pm at the Laurentian pitch.