Humber Hawks men’s soccer team finished first in the OCAA West division last weekend.
The next step — repeating their 2013 championship.
The Hawks were faced with a rare weekend doubleheader, but defeated Lambton College 6-0 and St. Clair College 4-0, securing their place in a quarter-final match at McNaughton Field Oct. 19.
Heading into the Lambton game still high off a win against Mohawk College on Sept. 27, head coach Michael Aquino preached the same message he did before the Mohawk match.
“You can’t take these mid-table teams lightly,” Aquino said. “You’ve got to come out from the first minute with intensity and enthusiasm.”
Playing a doubleheader raised concerns about fatigue.
Aquino said these are the times when depth of roster comes into play. Depth was a key factor in the team’s success last year and Aquino hopes it will be the same this year.
The game started with the Hawks on the ball right away. With midfielder’s Dino Gardner and Joshua Paredes-Procter pulling the strings, the Hawks played a “tiki-taka” style in the opposing half, a soccer term meaning a possession-oriented game geared to short plays. Lambton had a tough time getting forward and surrendered multiple turnovers that resulted in a 2-0 lead for the Hawks at halftime.
The second half saw Lambton’s floodgates open as the Hawks scored four goals, assuring Humber’s victory.
But there were no celebrations. The players knew that the quest for first place was only halfway done, and that the next day would bring an important match.
Oct. 5 was cold and dark. St. Clair already had a win under their belts after defeating first-place Sheridan College 3-2. Humber and St. Clair were tied for second place so the message was clear — winner finishes in first place in the division.
Goalkeeper Alexander Pothemont said they had the same intentions as in previous games.
“High intensity, confidence on the ball and get the win,” said the 20-year-old general arts and science student.
Pothemont said his preparations weren’t going to be any different.
“Talk to my defence, great communication and try not to concede any goals,” said last year’s OCAA Tournament Top Keeper.
“Big games require big players and big teamwork,” said Aquino.
First-year forward Jordan Piccinin didn’t know he was going to be one of those big players.
Piccinin, 17, a business administration student, has been injured for most of the season, and got the nod in only his second game for the Hawks.
The game was barely underway when Jesse Assing scored a goal in the first minute off a defensive error. At the 34th minute, Kasra Dehdezi gave a through ball to Piccinin who finished and gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
The sun started to come out as the second half began and the Hawks were off to a bright start. At the 55th minute, breaking down the wing, Jesse Assing’s cross fumbled around in the box before falling to Piccinin who struck the ball into the back of the net.
Feeling great after scoring his second goal, it wasn’t long before Piccinin was on the ball again. Breaking through the defenders, he was tripped in the box and awarded a penalty shot in the 58th minute.
Piccinin sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, completing his hat trick and securing the first place finish for Humber.
“We knocked the ball around nice, kept possession and we finished our chances when we had the opportunity,” said Piccinin.
Aquino said his team put on an excellent performance.
“The guys came out and executed what we wanted right from the first minute,” he said.
Aquino said at the beginning of the season that they’re trying to find the perfect 11 starting players come OCAA tournament time and believes they may have found them.
“Today was a good indication of it,” he said.
Hawks hope to become national champions three years in a row.