Laurier OUA preview The Sputnik September 7, 2011 SportsMens Baseball: Head Coach: Scott BallantyneAfter reaching the OUA final in 2009/2010, the mens baseball team at Laurier failed to make the playoffs by one game last season. When asked the reason for the step backwards, coach Steve Ballantyne attributed the effort to injuries and defensive instability.“We ran into a couple of injuries [last year]. We will be really focusing on defense, especially up the middle this season.”Coach Ballantyne says, like every year, Western and Brock will be the teams to beat in their OUA conference, Western being the team that stole the championship away from Laurier two seasons ago.With training camp having started on August 26th, coach Ballantyne is already excited at the prospect of having a successful season. With 45 players entering training camp, he believes that there are a lot of talented rookies joining the team.When asked what kind of a transition it takes to make the jump to OUA baseball, he says it is purely mental.“The biggest change is the mental aspect. They already have played against the best so talent wise is not an issue. The rookies have to get comfortable with their surroundings.”The Laurier baseball team plays a double header against the Guelph Gryphons September 24th in Brantford as part of Laurier Brantford’s homecoming. The team hasn’t played in Brantford since 2009, and coach Ballantyne says they are excited to return.“We know Brantford is a huge baseball town and we know the school is expanding. This doubleheader gives us a chance to show [Laurier Brantford] our team.”The Laurier men’s baseball team starts their season August 30th against the Windsor Lancers.Womens Basketball Coach: Paul FalcoWith their strongest finish ever at the CIS championship last year, placing fifth, the Laurier women’s basketball team is finally being recognized as a contender. Although the team this year will be relatively younger, with 3 fifth-year players graduating, head coach Paul Falco believes the experience of being part of the CIS championship will go a long way in allowing the returning players to lead and support the rookies throughout the course of the season.“Finishing 5th in the country last year was a great accomplishment for the team. It gave this year’s returning girls a taste of being at the national tournament and some excellent experience.”Falco says that the team will be looking to veterans Christa Mancino and Amber Hillis for leadership and performance down the stretch in order to get the team back into the Final 8 at the end of the season. With tryouts slated for September 12th, coach Falco explains there is always a chance of a player performing well enough to get an invite to join the team.“Sometimes a player who comes to the open tryout will catch our eye and make the team as a walk-on. As always, I expect it to be a competitive tryout and training camp and I know the girls and the coaching staff are anxious to get things rolling.”The team kicks off their season at a tournament October 14th at Ryerson. Coach Falco expects a lot of competition out of the gate from their OUA West conference, which ranked the toughest in Canada last year.Mens Football Head Coach Gary JeffriesWith a 4-4 regular season record, and losing to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the OUA semi-finals last year, the Golden Hawks will be looking to improve on a disappointing 2010 season.That marks two straight years in which the Laurier team has failed to advance to the Yates cup final, being stymied in the semi-final by Western in 2009 and Ottawa in 2010. Head coach Gary Jeffries and his coaching staff are looking to improve on the past two seasons, but will have to do so without some notable starters.Wide reciever Jeff Emberly, defensive lineman Stephen Cormack, and linebacker/kicker Giancarlo Rapanaro are just a few of the veterans who will be graduating and hanging up their Golden Hawk jerseys, leaving large shoes to fill for the next man on the depth chart.The first game of Laurier football’s much anticipated season is September 5th when they travel to York University to take on the Lions.The October 1st game against Ottawa will not only mark the first game since their last meeting at the OUA semi-finals a year ago, but also happens to be on the weekend of Laurier’s homecoming celebration. Some fans may also remember these two teams meeting at Laurier’s homecoming two seasons ago, in a thrilling game that saw rain, hail, wind, and a two-point victory for the Gee-Gees.As the Laurier-Ottawa rivalry continues to grow, the homecoming matchup also acts as one of two Laurier games that will be aired on The Score Television Network, the other being October 15th against McMaster.