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Paul Lefebvre - MP for Sudbury
Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019
Kids leave L.U. soccer coaching staff pleasantly surprised
by Randy Pascal

Moral victories are not going to satify Laurentian Voyageurs men's soccer head coach Carlo Castrechino for long. But when you are facing the defending OUA silver medallists with a depleted roster on opening weekend, this is a 2-1 loss he will take.

The Voyageurs and Carleton Ravens were locked in a scoreless draw into the 70th minute when Danta Cobisa put the visitors on the board, Gabriel Bitar doubling the Carleton advantage with roughly three to five minutes to play, before Evan Stronach broke the shutout for L.U. just before time expired.

"I thought we really stepped up our game, especially given the lineup that we had in there, missing the four regulars and then losing Daniel Correa (starting centreback) minutes in," said Castrechino. "This game really showed me the potential that this team has. I like the fight in us."

"The coaching staff was pleasantly surprised," Castrechino continued. "We had four to five rookies in the lineup, at times, and they really responded. They are fearless out there." True, there were some steadying presences in the mix, notably keeper Connor Vande Weghe, fullback Liam Ezzard, and Stronach in the midfield, but with Dean Pizolinas and Nico Correa both sidelined with injuries (not to mention highly touted sophomore Carver Grenon), rookies and second years received valuable minutes.

Such was the trust of the coaching staff that even with the absence of the rock in the middle of their back line (D. Correa), the crew did not waver in terms of their strategic approach to the game. "We kept the same formation going, because that's what we've been working on," said Castrechino.

"A 3-5-2 is the formation that we play with. If we ever need some of these younger players to fill in for the vets again later in the year, they are going to have to know the system."

With the defending presence of Correa out of the mix, Castrechino opted to drop starting midfielder Jacob Gramegna to fill the void in the middle of the back line, flanked by Ezzard and freshman Graeme McLean on the outside.

First years seeing action in the midfield core included Nick Esperanca, Arshjit Pelia and local product Jacxsen Cress, while walk-on rookies Augustus Oku and Noah La Sorsa joined Kristian Shuttleworth and Zef Kraja at forward.

The Voyageurs are in Kingston this weekend, matching up with the RMC Paladins and Queen's Gaels. Castrechino is hoping to have Pizolinas, Grenon and Nico Correa all back in the lineup for the two-game set.

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