The Brock Badgers men’s soccer team entered play this past weekend with their playoff chances hanging by a thread. The last place Algoma Thunderbirds came to town and the Badgers had to take care of business.
“We said at the beginning of the season that no games were going to be easy. From game to game anything can happen,” said head coach Lucio Ianiero.
The Badgers sure made things look easy on Saturday in the first of two games in back to back days against Algoma, as they throttled the Thunderbirds 6-0. It was by far the most lopsided result for the Badgers this season, as four first-half goals sealed things pretty quickly.
Arsen Platis led the team with two goals. While Jared Agyemang, Alexander Makubuya, Eric Serafino and Jordan Smalling all found the back of the net in a match that saw the Badgers outshoot Algoma 24-2.
After a result like Saturday’s, the last thing you would expect was a competitive game between the same two teams on Sunday, but that’s exactly what we received early on.
“Probably the worst thing that could happen was us beating them by that much because our guys came in maybe a little bit overconfident. You could see our intensity was a bit lower than yesterday, it could’ve been fatigue, but it could’ve been a bit mental”, Ianiero said of his team’s effort on Sunday.
“[Algoma] executed pretty well, they played a tight D and caused some problems. We couldn’t penetrate as easily and then we made some adjustments at halftime.”
The Badgers and Thunderbirds played scoreless until the 52nd minute when Agyemang finally broke through for Brock. Agyemang was taken down while pursuing the ball in the Algoma box and was awarded a penalty. He made no mistake on his opportunity, firing the ball in the bottom right corner and followed it up by placing a finger to his lips as if to “shush” the Algoma defenders that had been physical with him all game.
“He’s like a bull in a China shop. If you get him the ball he makes a lot of things happen with his aggressive play. He’s got that instinct to always go towards the net and because he does that he just attracts the defenders in and sometimes they foul him, as he did there for a penalty,” Ianiero said.
The Badgers seemed to relax after finally seizing a lead, maintaining the majority of possession the rest of the way. They outshot Algoma 16-1 in the match, but Arsen Platis’s goal from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute would be the only other offense from either side. The final score ended at 2-0, meaning Brock picked up the maximum six points from the weekend.
Brock now holds a record of 5-8-1 (16 points) in the seventh place in the OUA West Division. With just the top six teams in the division able to qualify for the playoffs, the final two games on their regular season schedule couldn’t be more crucial. But as Ianiero says, he doesn’t want his team to feel too much pressure.
“Because [the team] know we have our playoff hopes dangling before us, and we need a little bit of help from other teams, you don’t want to put too much pressure on the guys,” said Ianiero.
“We just said after the game today that next week is our season. Beat Waterloo and then we need a minimum of one point against Laurier. It’s attainable. So we don’t try and put too much pressure on them, but that being said, they have to come with the intensity to the game knowing that we need a victory.”
The Badgers are due to face the Waterloo Warriors on Oct. 20 on the road in what is a must-win game. They will then return home, with hopes of clinching a playoff spot, to face the Laurier Golden Hawks on Oct. 21 at 3:15 p.m. for their regular season and home finale. They begin preparing for their most important weekend of the season early this week.
“Business as usual. We just run through the things that we need to run through in training. Make sure everyone knows their assignments. We have to plug away at what we do best and tidy up on some things that need work and just hope for the best,” said Ianiero.