Although the men’s soccer team’s season ended last Saturday with an unfortunate loss to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, rookie defender Joseph Zupo provides reason for optimism in the future.
In the last three games of the season, the centre back scored four points and contributed to a defence that allowed only three goals.
“I thought that I wasn’t doing anything differently,” Zupo said. “Luckily for me, I got a couple of bounces here and there the last few games and my name showed up on the score sheet a little bit more but I really just stuck to what I was doing before and just got lucky.”
Zupo credits his team for his unusual scoring streak as a defender.
“I get forward as often as I can on free kicks, corners and throw-ins,” he said. “Really, it’s more my teammates with their crossing and their throwing abilities though. My job was made easier by the fact that they can do that very well.”
Zupo’s talent is hardly surprising given the amount of time he has spent with his sport.
“My grandfather introduced [soccer] to me at a really early age,” Zupo said. “My parents put me into a fun kind of league when I was just four.”
As Zupo grew older, his soccer career flourished.
“I played at [Wexford Soccer Club] from when I was eight years old until last year,” he said. “We won an Ontario Cup when I was playing U17 … I have been to Ireland twice, the Foyle Cup, and I’ve played in London for the Arsenal International Festival.”
Now, as he enters his off-season, Zupo is focused on his ultimate aim of winning a national championship as a member of the Gaels.
“You got to get a good training camp in for next year,” he said. “Short-term, that’s probably my goal; get a good off-season in, move into training camp, do as well as I can there, and then from there, strive towards a national championship.”
— Benjamin Deans
With 18 goals in 17 games, second-year striker Jacqueline Tessier has had no trouble scoring this season. The leading goal scorer in Canada may have just scored one of her most memorable of the season.
A tied quarterfinal match between the Gaels and the Nipissing Lakers was decided by an early overtime goal by Tessier.
“It always feels amazing to be able to help the team get big wins,” she said. “To have that kind of goal where you score early on in overtime … you can relax a little bit and just defend the win. It felt great.”
Along with her individual achievements, the Gaels have gone 14-2 this year coming into the playoffs ranked third in the country.
“I love what I do,” she said. “I’m a striker. I score goals. It’s my job and I’m just glad I’ve been doing it this season.”
The quarterfinal game remained scoreless in the first half until forward Kelli Chamberlain scored in the 69th minute. It looked as if the Gaels would have a victory until the Lakers answered back in the dying minutes of the game.
“It was a tough game,” she said. “They’re a team that competes hard no matter what, definitely a really dangerous team … We had some trouble putting the ball in the back of the net. But we handled their goal at the end of the game very well. We came back mentally and were able to pull off a win in overtime.”
Going into the Final Four this weekend, the Gaels have been named the number one team in the country. Tessier said the team can’t depend on rankings and need to focus on their game.
“We’re not looking too much into the ranking,” she said. “It’s a vote. It’s just a poll, nothing more. Were going into the game thinking like any other playoff game, it’s the team that shows up and wants it more on that day. We’re going to have put together a really good game of soccer to be able to pull off a win.”
— Kate Bascom
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