Taking care of business again
By Ian Ross
The Western men's soccer team has some unfinished business it would like to attend to this season. Stunned by the University of Victoria Vikes in the CIAU championship last year after riding a 15-game undefeated streak, the team is aiming to return to the pinnacle and take another shot at a national title.
On Sept. 6, the team took its first big step towards that vision defeating the Brock Badgers 1-0 in St. Catherines. Scoring the lone goal for the Mustangs was Glen Martins, a fourth-year striker, on a header assisted by Ryan Kovac 35 minutes into the first half.
Western's goalkeeper, John Dreliozis, who recently returned from playing in Greece, recorded the shutout. It was Dreliozis' first game as a starter for the purple and white.
"John picked a couple balls out of the air early on, which told the team we were set for a good game," said Ugo DeCandido, a fourth-year sweeper and 1996 All-Canadian.
With injuries forcing both co-captains, Jim Tsaprailis and Tom Perks, as well as defender Mike Potts to watch the game from the sidelines, the team appeared, at least on paper, to be vulnerable to a Badger upset.
"It's obvious we lost a tremendous amount of skill in losing three of the best players in the league to injuries," Martins said. "But we pulled from the bench to replace those missing players and put it together on the field.
"Due to injuries we were given the opportunity to throw all our players in and had a really good look at them," second-year head coach Rock Basacco said.
With final cuts not yet made to the official team roster, Basacco added the competition for only a handful of roster openings has been strong and will add depth to an already dangerous bench.
On offence, Martins feels they are better than last season with more experience under their belts. He expects bigger numbers on the game card from both himself and his teammates as the season progresses.
However, it is the defence that Basacco feels will be key to the success of the team with returning All-Canadians Ugo DeCandido and Ontario All-Star Mike Potts, plus the addition of John Hasson, who sat out last season after playing for West Virginia in the NCAA in 1995.
"Defence is definitely the key," Basacco stated. "All of our defenders are capable of attacking on the offence plus taking care of minimizing shots, winning balls and defending opponents."
Following the same game plan that brought the team success last season and with the loss of only seven players to graduation, none of which were All-Canadians or Ontario All-Stars, this year's squad is nearly a mirror image of the '96 CIAU silver medal team. Just add an additional year of maturity and experience.
"This year's team is phenomenal," Martins said, "We didn't think we would have the same team chemistry as last year, but it's still there."
Western's next game is Sept.14 when they will play host to Wilfred Laurier University at 3 p.m.