Skip to content

Lakers soccer teams have something to prove

Previews on both the Men's and Women's OUA soccer teams.
Lakers Soccer Logo
Another year, another playoff appearance, but unfortunately another season of coming up short of their goal.

The Nipissing Lakers men’s soccer team has been one of the most consistent in the OUA the past four seasons, earning a spot in the playoffs each and every year, but they have been eliminated in the first round in each of those four years.

This year’s team is looking to change that.

The Lakers enter the 2016 OUA/CIS soccer season with high hopes thanks to a solid core returning, an impressive recruiting class and the experience necessary to make a long playoff run.

Lakers head coach Carlo DeVuono is excited about another season and believes the team has taken steps in the right direction each of his season’s at the helm.

“I feel every year we are taking steps to becoming a better team. It's always exciting to start a new season. The team is gelling very well; e have a tight nit group,” he said.

With the team opening up Friday versus Toronto on home field, the Lakers will be looking to get off to a quick start and set the tone for the season.

DeVuono feels his lineup will have a little bit of everything which is going to bode well for the campaign.

“We have a good blend of veterans and first year players. With this balance we will be a tough opponent for everyone,” he said. “We have many veterans that I'll be looking to for leadership. Many of our veterans have plenty of game experience that will help them manage the season. We have such a good environment that on any given day anyone of our guys can step up.”

The Lakers picked up a tie and a loss against Toronto last season, but with a new look, some new faces and a lot of potential, this year could be different.

DeVuono believes for the returning athletes, the playoff loss is motivation to begin the season strong and carry that forward into a successful year, full with a playoff position and a first round victory.

While it’s too early to look at the post-season, the entire Nipissing team is ready to go.

“We have been looking forward to starting the season ever since our playoff loss last year. To lose late in a playoff game always leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. We're hungry to improve on last year,” DeVuono explained. “It's important to start the season well. We have a short season and a good start will go a long way.”

The goals are simple. The plan is simple, but the execution won’t be.

The league is full of quality programs and Nipissing will need to be at their best each and every game if they want to win.

DeVuono is confident his team is ready for the challenge ahead.

“Playoffs are always what we are looking for. I expect to give every team a good match up. We are the second smallest school in the OUA but we will continue to overachieve,” DeVuono stated.

The season begins with a home date Friday afternoon at 2:15pm at the Education Centre Field versus the Toronto Varsity Blues.

Women's Soccer 

One year after being the best team in the OUA not to make the playoffs, the Nipissing Lakers women’s soccer team is looking to return to the post-season.

The Lakers, who finished seventh place in the East Division, would have been fifth in the West thanks to their 21 points, but due to playing in a tougher division, fell short of a playoff spot.

The players who were on the team last year are eager to build off of last year, as well as head coach David Bitonti, who likes the way his roster has come together.

“We've got a nice combination of experienced players and first and second-year players that can all contribute and add depth to our lineup.  What we really like is the experience we have in the back line as well as in the goalkeeper position,” Bitonti said.

The veteran coach led his team to a 6-7-3 record and even recorded a needed win on the final day of the season, but it wasn’t enough, as Carleton earned the last playoff position, finish three points ahead of Nipissing.

The Lakers will rely on solid play without the ball, being able to limit the opposition’s chances and Bitonti feels his backline, along with goalkeepers are going to lead the team this season.

“Our strength will definitely be our defense. We need to concentrate on staying together within the formation defensively and look for quick counterattacks when we gain possession of the ball,” he explained. “For us to be successful we need to be disciplined defensively and aggressive when we attack.”

With just two days until they’re on the field, the entire program – coaches, athletes – is looking forward to the opportunity and challenge ahead of them.

For the returning players, this is another chance to make a statement in the OUA.

“We're really looking forward to get the season underway on Friday. Collectively everyone is hungry to begin the season using the motivation of falling short of the playoffs last year,” Bitonti added.

While getting off to a great start is always nice, there are 16 games in the season and Bitonti knows it’s going to take a complete effort each game to get to where they want to be.

Not looking too far ahead will be a key for his team and he’s going to make sure everyone is focused on the task at hand.

“The obvious goal is to make the playoffs. Yet we understand that before we get there we need to achieve small goals along the way,” he said. “One game at a time will prepare ourselves to make that run to close out the end of the season so that we are in a good position moving into the playoffs.”

You can always focus on certain athletes – starting goalkeeper, top defender or top scorer, however, this Lakers team will truly be successful as one unit.

Bitonti knows very well it will take everyone from himself, assistant coaches, right down to the starters and on to the non-starters for the Lakers to get to where they want to be.

“There's no question that our veteran players; Carly Bennard, Selena Innamorati, Shannon Russell, Renee Clarke, Andrea Dermott are key on leading this group.  This year we've added Megan Clarke and Julia Previte who strengthen our attack while Sarah Matesic and Mykaela Volpe will help us defensively,” Bitonti said. “At the end of the day it's going to take all 24 girls to contribute to the success of this team.”

The Lakers begin their season with a home date against Toronto this Friday at noon and travel to Ryerson for a match-up on Sunday with the Rams.