Soccer comes up short in semifinal

Men end season with bronze medals

The men’s soccer team experienced both the heights of glory and the agony of defeat during the OUA Final Four tournament last weekend at Carleton University. They suffered a 1-0 loss to the eventual Ontario champion York Lions in Saturday’s semifinal, which denied the Gaels a berth in the national championships. But they recovered in stellar fashion the next day, beating the host Carleton Ravens—the top-ranked team in the country heading into the weekend—in the third-place game.

Head coach Chris Gencarelli said winning the bronze was important for the team.

“It’s tough to lose in the semifinal game, but they played with a lot of heart and a lot of character,” he said. “I’m extremely proud they came home with something this weekend.”

It was somewhat of a reversal of the Gaels’ past fortunes. Last year, they went into the final four tournament as the OUA East champions and lost both matches to finish in fourth place. This year, the Gaels came in via the underdog route, finishing third in their division but defeating the Ryerson Rams and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in the playoffs to earn a berth in the final four. They were described as “this year’s post-season Cinderella team” in a press release by David Kent, Carleton’s director of marketing and communications. Unfortunately for the Gaels, the clock struck midnight on their playoff run sooner than they had hoped.

The Gaels started strong in their match against the second-ranked Lions Saturday.

York looked sure to score only three minutes from the halftime break off a sharp-angled shot towards the top corner of the Gaels’ net. The Lions were thwarted when Queen’s goalkeeper Sean Martin-Courtright dove backwards towards his goal line and narrowly knocked the ball away with an overhand punch, banging his head on the goalpost in the process. He appeared woozy for a few moments, but was able to get up and continued his stellar play for the rest of the match.

Eight minutes after halftime, York striker Francesco Bruno recorded the match’s only goal off a rebound from Martin-Courtright.

Queen’s tried to tie the score but had several chances foiled by York’s big central defence pairing of Jamaal Smith—the only athlete of the more than 600 trying out who got a second look from Toronto FC scouts—and Gerard Ladiyou, who came to York from the Cote d’Ivoire.

Midfielder Steve Irish said the team did the best they could against Smith and Ladiyou in the middle of the pitch.

“They weren’t as effective offensively. Defensively, they were solid at the back for sure, and we probably could have played a few more balls to the corners, but all in all, even though our strikers were much shorter, we still created well.”

Gencarelli said the loss was tough for the team to take.

“You’re never really satisfied to lose in the semifinals, because you really thought that you could make it to nationals, and that was our goal at the beginning of the season.”

On Sunday both teams applied pressure early and created several strong scoring chances.

Soon after the half-time break the Gaels scored the game’s only goal when fourth-year defender Paul Paudyn headed in a corner kick by Kerr-Vayne.

Carleton threw everything they could at the Gaels in an attempt to tie the game, but strong defending and great goalkeeping from Lewis ensured that the Gaels finished on top and earned their bronze medals.

Lewis said the game was one of the best the team had played.

“It was a great effort by the boys,” he said. “We came out and we showed the heart that we’ve been trying to do all year. We’ve been really coming together here these last couple games and just battling for each other. It’s pretty good to shut out the number-one team in the country.”

Fifth-year midfielder Alex Makin said winning the bronze over a team that had continually frustrated the Gaels was a fitting conclusion for his career.

“It was a nice way to end it, winning something,” he said. “The loss [Saturday] was hard to deal with, obviously not what we wanted, but we played with a lot of heart and showed it [Sunday].”

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