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Volume 91, Issue 40
Friday, November 7, 1997
Soccer title a long shot
SOCCER'S A SPORT THAT SURE COMES WITH A LOT OF PERKS. Mustang midfielder Tom Perks was named the OUA West MVP and is nominated for CIAU player of the year.
By Jason Valentin
It's do or die for the Western men's soccer team, who are in Halifax this weekend for the CIAU championships, yet despite the team's optimistic expectations, yesterday's 1-0 loss to the University of British Columbia will make winning the national title difficult.
The Mustangs are hungry for gold after falling short in last year's final in Toronto by a score of 1-0 to Victoria. Since then, the team's objective has never been in doubt, according to head coach Rock Basacco, who was named the OUA West division coach of the year on Wednesday.
"Gold was the objective from the beginning," he said. "We won silver last year and gold is the obvious next step."
For several of the Mustangs, the national tourney holds added significance.
"Anything but Gold is not good," second-year midfielder Tom Elezovic said. "A lot of the guys like [Jim] Tsaparailis and [Tom] Perks already have bronze (1993-1994) and silver (1996-1997). All they really want is gold."
The No. 2-ranked Mustangs will enter as the OUA champion for a second consecutive year, although they were already guaranteed a berth as the West division champion.
National play has not been as kind to the 'Stangs however, as the team has a 2-3-3 record and will be in tough this time slotted into a tough Pool B with top-ranked Victoria, the University of British Columbia and the host school, Dalhousie. UBC has won the nationals five times since 1989.
"They are the undeniable powerhouse of CIAU soccer and have been for the last 10 years," sweeper Ugo DiCandido said. "They train all year as a team which gives them an advantage."
In losing their first game, the Mustangs must beat Dalhousie today and Dalhousie must defeat UBC tomorrow to force a three-way tie. Should that occur, goal differential would decide which team would move on to play the winner of Pool A, which includes York (Ontario East Champion), St. Francis Xavier (Atlantic Champion) and McGill (Quebec Champion) for the championship on Sunday.
The Mustangs' strength this season has been an offence that led the CIAU, averaging three goals per game. At the heart of the potent attack is top scorer and first-team OUA all-star Luca Mancuso.
"Mancuso can be quiet for 70 minutes and then get two [goals] in five minutes," Elezevic said.
At midfield, Western has two OUA all-stars, Tom Perks and Jim Tsaparailis. In particular, Perks has been instrumental for the team's success and his play won him the honour of OUA West MVP and earned him a nomination as CIAU Player of the Year.
"We are the best team Western has ever had," Perks said prior to yesterday's loss. "It all comes down to putting it all together for three more games."
The Mustang defence has also proven to be one of the best in Canada with the team amassing nine shutouts this season.
"Our solid defensive record involves more than just the four of us, it is the whole team," DiCandido, one of two Mustang sweepers (along with Mike Potts) to earn OUA all-star honours, said. "Our strength all season long has been that everyone can defend."
In goal John Dreliozis has taken over the starting netminder's role and has played extremely well in the playoffs.
"He has to come up big, that is key," DiCandido said. "We don't allow a lot [of shots], but he needs to stop the few he gets."
Anyone interested in accessing information on the championships can access the tournament web page at http://athletics.ucis.dal.ca/ciau.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997