Men coast into playoffs

Team to work on offensive play

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western men's soccer

Jonas Hrebeniuk

Western striker Michael Sawchuk’s shot off the cross bar with less than 10 minutes to play was the closest anyone came to scoring on Sunday, as the men’s soccer team battled the Laurier Golden Hawks to a scoreless tie.

After defeating the Waterloo Warriors 1-0 on Friday, the ’Stangs had clinched second place in the Ontario University Athletics West division standings.

As such, they chose to rest many of their starters, including midfielder Dante Biscaro and starting goalkeeper Haidar Al-Shaibani. Striker Michel Daoust, who scored the team’s lone goal against the Warriors, sat out much of the second half versus Laurier.

“It was good to get some of the guys who haven’t played so much this year [the] opportunity to play,” Western head coach Rock Basacco said. “They held their own really well.”

Both the ’Stangs and the Hawks traded chances early on in a physical first half, but neither team was able to cash in on their opportunities.

Playing against the wind, the ’Stangs limited Laurier’s opportunities in the first half and received timely goalkeeping from backup rookie goalkeeper Andrew Murdoch, who discussed the importance of Western’s depth heading into the playoffs.

“I’m always ready [to play] when my number is called,” Murdoch said. “That’s the beauty of our team, we’re so deep if one guy goes down, there’s always another guy ready to step in and assume the role.”

For the Hawks, the game was an improvement from the day before, where they received a 3-0 thumping from the Windsor Lancers. The loss could prevent them from securing a home playoff game.

Despite their poor showing on Saturday, Hawks head coach Mario Halapir was pleased to see a renewed effort from his team.

“To be honest, it was really a battle throughout the game and I really thought we held our own and gave everything we had.”

The second half played out much like the first, with both teams receiving their share of chances, but neither able to put them in the back of the net.

While the ’Stangs could not find the net, the team earned its eleventh shutout in 14 games " something Basacco says he has never been a part of since he arrived at Western. The team has allowed only four goals all season.

Having finished second place in their division, the Mustangs have a bye in the first round of the playoffs. They will not play their first game until Oct. 27.

Basacco said the week will be used to work on the team’s offensive play.

“Certainly scoring is something we need to spend a little time on, especially creating opportunities to get shots on goal,” he said.

Expectations are high heading into the playoffs, as the team captured last year’s OUA championship and has won three of the last four provincial titles.

With such a strong defensive unit, however, Murdoch said the team should be able to get back to last season’s championship form so long as it can generate some offence.

“As long as we put goals in the back of the net, nobody can stop us. Our back four [defenders] are too good.”

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