Untimely lapses

Home playoff match not assured after late losses

Minutes from earning six weekend points, the men’s soccer team instead conceded six late goals.

Nursing a shutout through 70 minutes of both their Thanksgiving tilts in Toronto, the Gaels failed to secure any points in the standings, allowing a flurry of late markers to extend their season-long losing streak to three games.

Last Saturday’s matchup with the Toronto Varsity Blues ended 2-1 after a sudden Blues comeback, while the first-place Ryerson Rams netted three times in five minutes to bury Queen’s 4-2 on Sunday.

At 5-5-2, the Gaels are lodged in fifth place in the OUA East, trailing Toronto for home-field in the first round of the playoffs by two points.

“I thought we played an excellent 75 minutes [against Toronto and Ryerson], and then we just sort of collapsed,” said Gaels head coach Chris Gencarelli. “Overall, we’re still moving in the right direction despite the two losses. I think we’re going to be a very, very dangerous team come playoff time.”

The Gaels nearly spoiled Ryerson’s perfect regular season on Sunday, holding the nationally second-ranked Rams (11-0-1) to a scoreless draw through 75 minutes of play.

The clean sheet would be spoiled on an own goal, which trickled past Gaels keeper Dylan Maxwell on a scrambled play and essentially opened the floodgates.

Ryerson striker Luka Lee tallied twice in the ensuing minutes, beating Maxwell low and high on consecutive strikes. Fellow striker Viktor Anastasov knocked home a cross in the 87th minute to extend the lead to four.

Substitute Gaels striker Lucas Lobo responded for Queen’s with a 90th-minute marker, while captain Joe Zupo buried a penalty kick in stoppage time to soften the margin of defeat.

Gencarelli said the back-and-forth nature of the Ryerson game meant whoever scored first would likely win.

“The work ethic and the work rate from the guys was great until the end of the game,” he said. “Overall, we need to do a better job at responding when a team scores against us. I think we panic a little bit when we do concede.”

Late concessions also doomed Queen’s the day before against Toronto. While midfielder Chris Michael smacked home a free kick in the 55th minute to open the scoring, Blues goals in the 71st and 78th minutes quickly reversed the score line.

Toronto’s win drew them within a point of Queen’s in the OUA East standings, before the Blues leapt into fourth with a 4-0 win over the RMC Paladins on Wednesday night.

With a game in hand, the Gaels are set to face the Laurentian Voyageurs and Nipissing Lakers at home this weekend — with a postseason match at West Campus Field on the line.

“The guys know what’s at stake,” Gencarelli said. “Our focus is ensuring we continue to play well, that we improve on our results and that we continue to get better each and every game to be ready for the playoffs.”

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