By Aaron Walsh – The Brock Press
The Brock University men’s soccer team (0-2-2 OUA) have just began their season and so far performances have been of mixed calibre. Consistency is vital in such a short season and making the playoffs can be balanced on a knife’s edge.
The men’s preseason fixtures went smoothly picking up two comfortable victories and a draw, but the start of the new campaign has been a slow one. The Badgers have picked up two points from what should have been six and would have place them in sixth place.
As it stands they could face a hard battle of obtaining the final slot. Performances against UIOT and Laurier have given the men much to be confident about. Laurier is still undefeated and just managed to scrape a tie with the Badgers and the long trip to Oshawa to face UOIT was a well earned point.
However, dealing the fatal blow and shutting down the match to secure victories hasn’t quite been reached. Prior to the first home opener, the men’s camp, as well as the school, received terrible news that a second-year student Brock athlete had passed away on the morning of Sept 7.
The news hit the players and coaching staff hard and Captain Erik Van Wissen (Georgetown, Ont) posted on Facebook on behalf of the team that “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends”.
With emotions running high after tragic news and with good performances not securing desired results the Badgers were facing a tough home opener to defending OUA champion McMaster Marauders.
Brock’s head coach Bill Millar lined up with a 4-4-2 formation consisting of a diamond shaped midfield. As the sun bore down onto the pitch, the whistle screamed and Brock’s home opener was underway.
24 seconds in and the Badgers had the first chance with great link up play between Marcus Bernard (Thornhill, Ont) and Sammy Orlando (Woodbridge, Ont) down the attacking left flank. An arching run by Bernard from the centre created space in the middle for Bernard to play a squared ball to Orlando on the edge of the box. Orlando rifled the ball with pace across goal, but it was high and wide.
Brock came out of the starting blocks rapidly but with less than two minutes played, intricate play from the Marauders central midfield quickly sprayed the ball to their right wing. A low cross was not dealt with by the back four and composure from Gersi Xhuti (Etobicoke, Ont) placed the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-0 McMaster.
It was the worst possible start for Brock, but conceding early did not devastate the players and balance was restored within the 19th minute by the captain. An intercepted ball just inside the Marauders half fell to striker Yan Illic (Dundas, Ont) from 35 yards out. Illic’s killer first touch allowed him to find Van Wissen on the overlapping run from right wing. Illic’s gently clipped the ball into the path of Van Wissen who clinically took the ball in his stride went one-on-one with the keeper and placed it beyond the Marauders goalie.
It was all square going into the second half and everything to play for, Brock was holding their own against an established soccer side but all the hard work would come undone in the span of two minutes.
10 minutes into the second half a poor throw-in by the Badgers was intercepted allowing the Marauders to hit on the counter. McMaster quickly switched the play from left flank to right to create another cross into the box. Good movement by Nate Morris (Mississauga, Ont) allowed him to bury a header from roughly 10 yards out.
Two minutes later, a lack of urgency by Brock allowed McMaster to take a short corner, which provided a better ball into the penalty box. The Badgers defence failed to deal with the first and second loose ball allowing a header from the back post to come across goal.
Morris was left open again to tuck in the ball from close range giving goalkeeper Jake Sweetzer (Mississauga, Ont) no chance of saving. With two quick fire goals from McMaster, it took the wind out of Brock’s sails.
A chance to crawl back was denied by a good save from the Marauders goalie with 20 minutes to go, but the damage was already done. Final score McMaster Marauders 3, Brock Badgers 1.
The men’s soccer team’s next home game will take place on Sept 14, when Windsor travels to Brock. Game time starts at 3:15 p.m. at the Brock Field.