November 7, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 39  

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Soccer team determined to bring home the gold

By Ian Denomme
Gazette Staff

After a three year hiatus, the Western Mustangs' men's soccer team is heading back to nationals. And they don? plan on coming home empty-handed either.

After winning the Ontario University Athletics championship last week in Kingston with a 3-0 win over Waterloo in the final, the team is poised to bring home the gold from the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships being held in Montreal this weekend.

Western hasn't been to the CIS final since winning the championship in 1998 and 1999. The chance to go is exciting for the veterans who have been there, as well as younger players getting their first taste.

"It's the first time I've been, so its really exciting. The whole team is pumped to have the experience," said second-year midfielder Paul Speakman. "We also have some fifth-year guys who haven't been there since their first or second year. It's really exciting for the whole team." Western is joined at the tournament by the universities of Waterloo, Alberta, Montreal, Concordia and Saint Mary's. Just by emerging as the Ontario champion, the team knows they are well prepared for the competition. The last five CIS championships have been won by a team from Ontario.

"The quality in the OUA is really good," Speakman said. "We knew going into the final that we were facing a really strong side. We haven't played any of the other teams, but we're expecting high quality." The OUA championships started with a few surprises. Toronto -who was one of the favourites- withdrew and forfeited their season after playing with an ineligible player. Waterloo took their spot and upset Queen's in the semi-finals to advance to face Western.

"It didn't matter who we played -it just feels great to win," said head coach Steve Langley. "We beat Waterloo once this year and lost to them once. The guys were prepared and stepped up. We knew from the beginning we could do it; it's very rewarding." Going into the tournament on a high note has boosted the confidence of the team and has heightened their expectations.

"We're expecting to win. At the start of the year we set three goals: win our division, win the OUA and win nationals," Speakman said, with sentiments echoed word for word by Langley.

Western opens the tournament today against Alberta and faces Concordia tomorrow. The gold and bronze medal games are scheduled for Sunday.

"We don't know much [about our opponents], but we know they are good. Alberta had a good year and Concordia has some great players," Langley said.

"We need to score more goals," Langley added, referring to what it will take to win. "We haven't been giving up goals and Roberto [Caballero Jr.] has been playing real well. We want to be in the gold medal game -that's been our goal since day one," Langley said.

With their ultimate goal now in sight, the Mustangs are ready and confident to grab the gold.

"We know what we want," Speakman said. "If we get on a good run, we are confident that we can beat anybody."



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