Men's soccer season ends in heartbreak

Gaels lose to Nipissing 1–0 in first round of OUA playoffs 

Second-year defender James Michaelis sprints up the field with the ball.
Second-year defender James Michaelis sprints up the field with the ball.

In a stunning upset, the Nipissing Lakers cut the men’s soccer team’s season, defeating them 1-0 in the first round of the OUA playoffs Wednesday night. Queen’s had beat Nipissing earlier in the season, too, winning 1-0.

The Gaels had their best regular season in three years with a 9-6-1 record heading into the matchup, finishing fourth in the OUA East. But as the fifth-place Lakers (6-9-1) would prove, seeding doesn’t mean everything come time for playoffs.

Queen’s started off the game well, but a goal by Nipissing 33 minutes in threw them into disarray. The team’s first half was spent trying to regain composure—their attacks became aggressive but disjointed, and frustrations mounted as halftime drew near.

After halftime, though, the Gaels appeared to be rejuvenated and refocused. They came out flying to start, making calm, poised plays that led to chance after chance—they’d outscore Nipissing 7-2 in the half and 12-5 over the entire game. The Lakers were firmly on their heels, trying to stave off the equalizing goal.

Nipissing dug in and created a defensive wall, forgoing any offence of their own in favour of keeping all men back to maintain their lead. The strategy paid dividends: every time the Gaels cracked their perimeter, Nipissing’s secondary help came to fend off opposing attackers.

Queen’s would get their last chance in the game’s final minute—a Gaels header from an ensuing cross looked destined for goal, but a desperate lunge from Nipissing’s goalkeeper kept the ball out, ending the match 1-0.

“One thing I’ll always say about these guys is that they fought, they played until the last whistle. That’s something we can always be proud of,” head coach Christian Hoefler said of his team after the loss. Hoefler now holds a 3-5 playoff record since coming to Queen’s in 2014.

When the final whistle blew, emotions boiled over between the two teams. Nipissing players confronted some Gaels players, and a scuffle began that quickly evolved into a fight, with numerous players throwing punches.

Hoelfer was clear about his feelings on the ending to the game afterwards.

“We were attacked by some of the opponent and it’s unfortunate that their coaching staff couldn’t control their own players,” Hoefler said. “There’s no way that the opponent’s coaching staff should let that happen.”

Coming off such a strong season, Hoefler was evidently disheartened by the Gaels’ end to the season.

“I’m gutted,” he said. “We expected a lot more than this.”

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