Hamilton, ON- It’s been 14 years since the McMaster Marauders men’s soccer team wasn’t coached by Dino Perri.
The former long-time head coach was in the stands on a rainy Sunday afternoon as McMaster won its home opener 1-0 against the Western Mustangs. Former Marauders assistant Chris Markou was on the sidelines as the new head coach.
The win marked the team’s first win of the season after they lost their season opener 2-1 to Western in London the previous day.
Yet, even with a new coach, the same identity remains, according to team captain and fourth-year defender Gianluca Spadafora.
“Chris is obviously a different style but we want to keep the same identity of last year, tweaking a couple of things as players came in and came out,” Spadafora said. He said their identity – and the one of McMaster teams in general – is based off hard work. “Whenever you work as hard as you can, some of the good things will happen,” he added.
On Sunday, they worked and were rewarded for it. The Marauders created chances early, testing Western goalkeeper Dino Bontis early and often inside the box. The home team had most of the scoring chances.
Finally, in the 25th minute, Jordan Baker found Miles Green inside the box as Green ripped the ball past Bontis. Spadafora praised forwards Green and Amir Shirazi’s play. “They understand how to play with each other,” he said. “They’ve played with each other all summer long and find, nine times out of ten, if they get a chance, it’s in the back of the net.”
While the Marauders continued to create chances in the second half, they also defended as Western searched for the tying goal. The Mustangs almost got it after one of their players was fouled and awarded a penalty in the 71st minute. However, Western’s Aiden Bauer-Marr hit it over the bar.
McMaster kept the visitors off the scoresheet the rest of the way. “I think there’s a couple of things that we could have been better,” Spadafora noted. “I think that we could have managed the game better whenever we have the ball…our defending was good at times but a lot of work has to be done.”
As the captain and as the Hannon, Ont native enters his fourth season, he’s now a leader. He’s learned from past leaders and teammates.
“Just holding each other accountable,” Spadafora said. “Nothing in this league is ever going to come easy. I just thought today, in that second half, it was a dog fight. It honestly taught how to stick together…how to work hard and never cut any corners and it shows.”
Next up, the Marauders will have a home-and-home with the Guelph Gryphons, who lost in the OUA finals to the York Lions last season and went to nationals. Spadafora referenced the mentality the team showed after losing to Western on Saturday; how they kept calm and got the victory on Sunday.
“I would say to never get too low after a loss and never get too high after a win,” he noted. It’s a mentality that could be helpful against Guelph.
Marauder Women Show Heart In Close Loss to Western
The McMaster women’s soccer team opened their season with a 1-1 draw against the Western Mustangs on Sept. 3. The Mustangs were a good test for the Marauders as they reached the OUA finals last season.
In that game, McMaster was outshot 13-5 as goalkeepers Julia Krutman and Ali Mudie came up with numerous saves. They gave up a 22nd minute goal to defender Avarie Thomas (who also plays on the Mustangs women’s basketball team).
However, late in the game, after a Mustangs goal was called off, defender Bryanna Caldwell scored a few minutes later to give them a draw. One day later, a similar scenario was unfolding.
The Mustangs were creating most of the chances as Mudie came up with big saves, including a quick reflex diving one from a shot five yards out.
“That was nuts,” McMaster midfielder Ignacia Jimenez said of Mudie’s save. “She’s honestly so solid and she really kept us going. She talks through the back, she communicated to us and kept our heads up, which is great.”
Jimenez said she knew the Mustangs would come out hard, given how the previous game had unfolded. Western outshot McMaster 10-2 in the first half and 14-8 in the game.
The Mustangs finally found the breakthrough goal seven minutes into the second half as forward Hannah Vickers headed the ball into the net off a corner.
From that point on – in need of an equalizer – McMaster created chances. They lobbed balls in that just eluded the forwards. Joelle Chackal used her speed to chase down a loose ball, beat out a defender and create a scoring chance.
The Marauders outshot Western 6-4 in the second half. However, the tying goal proved elusive. “The last push, the last 30 minutes, our legs were a little heavy but I felt like we wanted it,” Jimenez noted. “We just kept pressing and pressing and pressing and we didn’t give up.”
In the waning moments of extra time, they almost got an equalizer. The ball was swung in off a corner as Caldwell made contact and it was just stopped at the goal line before being cleared. That was as good of a chance as they would get.
Despite the loss, Jimenez said the team will keep the heads up and keep doing with they’ve been doing. “We played with heart,” she said. “Although it wasn’t the result we wanted, I’m really really proud of the girls. We fought from minute zero to 90. I’m so proud of us and we’ll get them back. I know it.”
Featured Image: Brandon Vandecaveye/Western Athletics