Home isn’t where the wins are

Victories slip through the fingers of the men’s soccer team

Queen’s Justin Wood takes on Toronto’s Tristan Scott.
Queen’s Justin Wood takes on Toronto’s Tristan Scott.
Gaels’ defender Michael Zanetti heads the ball against the Blues’ Yannis Gianniotis Sunday. Queen’s and Toronto tied 1-1.
Gaels’ defender Michael Zanetti heads the ball against the Blues’ Yannis Gianniotis Sunday. Queen’s and Toronto tied 1-1.

The men’s soccer team may have won in their hearts, but this weekend it didn’t show up on paper. They looked set to earn six points this weekend from wins in their final regular-season games against the Ryerson Rams and University of Toronto Varsity Blues, but allowed tying goals in the last five minutes of both games and only picked up two points from a pair of draws.

Head coach Carlo Cannovan said it was frustrating to only take two points from the weekend. He said he thought his players should have won both games based on their play.

“The positive is, and we want to stick with the positives, is [the players] know themselves we deserve better,” he said. “It’s hard luck here. We’ll get on with it.”

Cannovan said his team made very few mistakes, but the bounces didn’t go the Gaels’ way.

“I can’t really critique them too much because the boys played well,” he said. “Both Ryerson’s coach and Toronto’s coach said ‘You beat us, clearly.’ What can we do?”

The four lost points meant the Gaels finished in the sixth and final playoff berth in the OUA East instead of the fourth seed. As a result, they’ll have to travel to Sudbury Wednesday to face the Laurentian Voyageurs instead of hosting the first game of the playoffs.

Saturday’s game began auspiciously for Queen’s when midfielder Mike Arnold converted a penalty in the 30th minute to give the Gaels a 1-0 edge. The Gaels created several more chances and could have added to their lead, but they couldn’t locate their finishing touch and Ryerson equalized on a last-second penalty kick.

Cannovan said he wasn’t impressed by the officiating in the Ryerson game, which he felt was influenced by the presence of a referee evaluator.

“We deserved the three points,” he said. “I felt we dominated the game from the opening whistle to the final whistle. We were very unfortunate and very unlucky. The refereeing was very questionable.”

Cannovan said the late goal struck a severe blow to his team’s morale.

“It’s devastating, when you think you’ve got the three points and you’re just sitting there waiting for the final whistle to blow,” he said. “I don’t question the penalty at all, but the free kick leading up to the penalty was very questionable.”

Defender Andrew Nador said the team was pleased with their performance against Ryerson, even though it wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard.

“We’re happy with the way we played,” he said. “The play’s there, we just need the result. We were a little bit unlucky towards the end, but a 95th-minute penalty, what can you really do?”

Defender Michael Zanetti said there’s hope, though, as the team’s starting to gel.

“We’re really starting to play more as a team,” he said. “Today was an unlucky spell, but I’m looking forward to what we can do in the playoffs.”

It was a similar story Sunday, when defender Justin Vermeer put the Gaels ahead of the number-six Varsity Blues in the sixth minute off a long throw from Nador. Queen’s defended tenaciously, but an 86th-minute goal from Neil D’Silva preserved the tie for Toronto. The draw, combined with Ryerson’s 6-1 win over the RMC Paladins and Trent’s 1-0 win over Laurentian ensured the Gaels could finish no higher than sixth and would have to go on the road to play the Voyageurs this week.

Vermeer said the team needs to improve their concentration late in games to be able to preserve their leads.

“It’s very disappointing,” he said. “That’s just mental focus right there. You’ve got to push through the whole way.” The Gaels finished with a 4-6-4 record. Vermeer said the team hopes to prove itself in the playoffs.

“I think a lot of people are underestimating our squad,” he said. “I think we’ve got a really good chance to go far and really shock some people.”

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