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L1O Men's West Division: The Departed

By Lauren Maharaj, 09/09/16, 2:30PM EDT


We are well past the middle of the 2016 League1 Ontario season, and it is during this portion of the campaign where the long-term tactics and preparation of coaching staff becomes more apparent.

Even before the All-Star matches in early August, rosters began to shuffle in order to fill the void left by players departing for post-secondary and other high-level opportunities.

While a variety of early season luminaries remain, the league has always proudly presented itself as a place where the next cycle of talent is nurtured year-to-year.

Although it is difficult to narrow down to discussion of a handful of impact players in a league filled with talent, this piece attempts to do so with the opinion of each club's respective coaching staff brought to bear.

Here is a small highlight set of players that have made the exodus from the Western Division, with a focus on where their endeavors will take them next:

Kwame Awuah

Sigma FC

Kwame Awuah - The University of Connecticut midfielder has earned his share of praise for his attacking creativity, and much of what he has achieved for the Huskies in 2015 is testament to that ability. Awuah capped off last season as the 2015 AAC Midfielder of the Year and finished atop the league with 12 assists.

Awuah's performances have also granted him co-captaincy and a definite starting place among the roster. He has played in League1 for three seasons; in 2016 he played six matches for Sigma, with 510 minutes and one goal to his name.

He was also selected for the Men's All-Star match in August.

FC London

Borna Juracic - 17-year- old Juracic has ventured to Niagara University for his first year competing on the post-secondary circuit. He is considered one of London's top defenders and can boast playing just about every minute of the club's 2016 season, suiting up for 13 matches at a rate of 888 minutes total.

In his youth, Juracic played with the Oakville Soccer Club's U17s, where he lifted the Ontario Cup while also finishing atop the Ontario Youth Soccer League.

Noah Pio (Photo: Martin Bazyl)

Windsor Stars

Noah Pio - Another young, attacking-minded talent is Noah Pio, who before departure was an integral piece to the Stars' weekly line-up.

Pio has been a mainstay in the Windsor soccer fabric since age five, when he began playing with Windsor SC. He followed his brother, Micheal Pio to the University of Windsor before earning himself a massive transfer to Cleveland University to play NCAA D1 soccer this fall.

At a mere 18-years old, he's played over 1000 minutes for the Stars this summer.

Oakville Blue Devils

Braden Culver – A part of the Blue Devils side that relished a golden 2015 season after winning the League1 title and later becoming Inter-Provincial Champions, Culver returns to Buffalo University for another year this fall.

For the Bulls, Culver has progressively grown into an impressively consistent midfielder playing in over ten matches per season, recording 18 appearances in 2015.

The Oakville native's last appearance for the Blue Devils was mid-July against Kingston, capping his League1 season with eight appearances and 348 minutes.

Matt Zaikos (Photo: Martin Bazyl)

Sanjaxx Lions

Matt Zaikos - The 2016 Men’s West Division starting All-Star keeper, Matt Zaikos will be returning to Brock University to stand tall once again as the last line of defense for the Brock Badgers.

Last season Zaikos managed a whopping 68 saves out of 92 shots, reinforcing his reliability in goal. He managed to finish his third year as the Brock University MVP in 2015, and his 2016 League1 season for the Lions with 10 appearances.

Pro Stars FC

Zachary Gowlett - Tearing out a page from the book of sibling and TFC II player, Raheem Edwards, Gowlett made his Canadian youth program debut at an identification camp in 2015 with U20 head coach Rob Gale.

Since then, the 18-year- old has travelled to Hungary alongside Pro Stars' teammate Kibwe Dwyer for U-19 academy program tryouts for club, Győri ETO FC.

The Hungarian outfit is a major stepping stone to international and domestic opportunity, considering that in the past the club has sold players to decorated sides like Liverpool, Benfica and Feyenoord.

Lee-Victor Massunda (Photo: Martin Bazyl)

North Mississauga Panthers

Lee Victor Massunda - Massunda has been an integral part of the Panthers' attacking threat in the western division, playing just about every minute until departure.

The Mississauga native recorded 14 appearances at a total of 1091 minutes, scoring five goals in total.

Massunda has left the Panthers for Oshawa’s University of Ontario, where he has on many occasions demonstrated his leadership skills.

Massunda is yet another influential selection to League1 Ontario Men's All-Star roster.