McMaster men’s soccer stay even keeled after rebounding against Brock

Hamilton, ON- You may remember that McMaster Marauders men’s soccer are defending OUA champions. You may remember how they finished the season on a winning tear but started their season with up and down results. 

The Marauders lost their two of their first four games in 2022. One year later, the team is going through a similar stretch of results after two wins and two losses. 

After losing to the Brock Badgers 1-0 on Sept. 8, the Marauders rebounded with a 1-0 victory of their own at Ron Joyce Stadium on Sept. 10. It didn’t come easy. “Every time we play against Brock, it’s a complete dogfight,” Marauders goalkeeper Ethan Cagalj said. 

McMaster was facing a stout defensive Brock squad. Yet, they found the breakthrough off a corner kick in the 10th minute. Amir Shirazi swung the ball in and forward Cristian Alfieri got onto it to knock it in. Alfieri was mobbed by his teammates as he ran towards the sidelines in celebration. A wonder goal Cagalj called it. 

The goal scorer credited Marauders head coach Tristan Joyce for drawing up the play. He credited Shirazi for his delivery and mentioned how much they had practised it. “I was just there in the right spot to put the ball in,” Alfieri said. “It felt great to celebrate with the team and get the three points.” 

As the game went along, the Marauders had some stout defending of their own. Brock buzzed around with possession in McMaster’s end in the second half but were kept off the scoresheet.  

Joyce said that came from goalie Ethan Cagalj’s communication with his defenders. 

“I got to be connected with them and have a good relationship with them,” Cagalj said. “So they hear my instructions and stuff.” When Brock’s attackers would make runs, Cagalj would call them out to his teammates. 

“We kept them all in front of us,” Joyce said. “No balls in behind.” 

Goalkeeper Ethan Cagalj and the Marauders kept a clean sheet for the first time this OUA season (Photo: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics)

Their defending paid off as they celebrated another home victory. McMaster is now 2-0 at Ron Joyce Stadium. They are now 2-0 in their next game after a loss. 

So, how do they rebound? Mentality, approach and experience. Alfieri said it’s their resilience that shines through. He knows the reality of the sport means they’re not going to win every game. 

“True winners and true character is brought out in these moments,” he said. “Where can you face adversity and how can you handle it.” 

Many of the players can draw upon their experience from last season. The early season losses that were followed by wins. The adversity within games itself as well. “We’ve been through ups and downs before,” Cagalj noted. “So, it makes it easier for us to kind of dig ourselves out of it and get back on our toes.”

The veterans will use their experience to support their teammates by staying positive, according to the goalkeeper. They’ll analyze their performance, focus on the important things – things to adjust for example – and move onto the next game. 

Joyce sees that positivity from his players. He sees how they’re enjoying playing. He sees how they’re in high spirits even after losses. “Personally, I hate to lose but the way they can pick up and move onto the next game is fantastic,” he said. 

For Joyce, it’s about managing the emotions of the players. Not letting the highs get too high nor the lows get too low. He and his coaching staff know what it’s like, having been OUA players recently. 

They have a rule where they try not to talk too much about the game in the 24 hours afterwards. “It’s very difficult to assess the game immediately [when] you come off because we all have emotions,” Joyce noted. 

They’ll then study the game film. The coaches will have one-on-one conversations with the players, talking about what they can do better. Then, they’ll immediately start talking about their next game. 

While they celebrated the win against Brock immediately afterwards, you can be sure the Marauders soon turned their focus to their next match against the Algoma Thunderbirds – another chapter in their season of managing highs and lows. 

Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics

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