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Volume 91, Issue 39

Thursday, November 6, 1997

purple goat


Dreliozis battles back in midst of playoff pressure

©Geoff Robins/Gazette
NOTHING GETS BY ME WITHOUT A FIGHT. Mustang goalkeeper John Dreliozis has been taking the advice of Tony the Tiger in preparation for this weekend's Canadian nationals.

By John Dinner

Gazette Writer

Coming into the 1997 season, goalie John Dreliozis was a bit of an unknown quantity to the coaching staff of Western men's soccer team. Now he has shown he is worth his weight in gold.

After playing for the Mustangs three years ago under different coaches, Dreliozis faced injuries and a chance to play in Europe, leaving current coach Rock Basacco pleasantly surprised with the talent he held when the netminder returned.

"Watching John during the summer and in the shutout of Brock in the first game of the season, we knew we had an excellent keeper in net," Basacco said. However, due to an injury in the second game of the season against Laurier, which kept him out for most of the season, Dreliozis was not able to live up to expectations. That is, until three games ago, when he returned and posted three straight victories, two of which came down to playoff penalty shots in the Ontario semifinals against Laurier and the Ontario finals against York.

Born and raised in London and playing soccer for as long as he can remember, Dreliozis was able to live out the dream of many young soccer players. He had the opportunity after his first year at Western to pursue a professional career in Greece. At the age of 21, Dreliozis signed a one-year contract with AC Apollo Athens as a back-up goal keeper and left school to chase his dream. As a back-up in Europe, with increased exposure playing in front of 20,000 to 30,000 fans, Dreliozis learned first-hand what it takes to be a professional in any of today's sports.

However, Dreliozis said that unlike other sports in which a rookie can have an immediate impact on their team, in soccer young goalies are not given a chance until the number one goalie is traded or injured. Being 21 is very young, as most goalies hit their prime somewhere between 28 and 30.

After one year in Europe, Dreliozis was dealt a crushing blow when he was in a serious motorcycle accident, nearly ending his career. Having had reconstructive surgery on both knees, Dreliozis was deemed injury prone and his contract was not picked up for the next season.

When he returned to Canada, Dreliozis went through extensive rehabilitation and was determined to return to Western and chase another dream of winning a CIAU championship. "All I could think about was playing at Western," he said. With the success of last year's team [second at the nationals], all I wanted was to be a part of a championship team with the guys."

Throughout the year, Western's goaltending situation was a bit of a question mark, with four different goalies playing over the course of the season. Returning from injury, Dreliozis showed tremendous self-determination to attain his goal to return to the Western line-up. With outstanding goalkeeping last week against Laurier in the semifinal, assuring the team a berth in the national championships in Halifax and then back-stopping the Western squad over York in the Ontario final, he gave up only one goal and proved to everyone he can thrive under the pressure.

"The game against Laurier [last week] solidified John as our starting keeper," Basacco said.

Veteran midfielder Tom Perks feels having Dreliozis back in net is a real confidence-booster. "He's strong on crosses and a real presence in net. He makes a good team better."

Together they hope to improve on last year's second place finish and bring back gold from Halifax.

Despite all the set-backs and disappointments Dreliozis doesn't see an end in soccer. "I want to coach. I want to give back to the game everything it has given me."

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997