Soccer Lions win first game at nationals

The York Lions men’s soccer team cruised to a 3-0 victory over BC’s Victoria Vikes in their quarter-final game at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Men’s Soccer Championship on Thursday. The win guarantees the team at least a fourth-place finish at the event and gives them a chance to compete for the medals on the weekend.

The game began amidst a thick fog that made it hard to see on the field. But the Lions ignored the difficult conditions and came out flying. York put continuous pressure on the Vikes throughout the game and did not give them many scoring chances. Philip Rivers, a third-year midfielder, was named York’s player of the game for his tremendous play all morning.

“I think our game plan was spot on today,” said Head Coach Carmine Isacco. “Our mentality and character were great. We had good ball movement and capitalized on the good opportunities we had. We had a better concept of what we needed to do today and we executed.”

The Lions opened the scoring early when fourth-year defenceman Franco Ruscetta, an OUA first-team all-star this season, scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal to give York an early 1-0 lead. The goal was Ruscetta’s first of the season and could not have come at a better time as it set the pace for the rest of the game.

In the 13th minute, veteran midfielder Luca Forno gave the Lions a two-goal lead on a beautiful shot that arced over the Vikes defencemen and goalkeeper and landed in the back of the net. Rookie Adrian Pena, also an OUA first-team all-star this season, expanded the lead even further when he sent the ball into the net off his head following a terrific pass from another all-star rookie, Jarek Whiteman, in the 33rd minute. That was more than the Lions would need to secure the win and advance at the tournament.

Recording the shutout for the Lions was goalie Alim Karim, who continued his stellar play in net en route to his fifth shutout of the season.

The Lions will now have a day off before the CIS semifinal, where they will face either the Montreal Carabins or Dalhousie Tigers on Saturday, at 2pm, in a game that will be broadcast on the Streaming Sports Network.

York came into the weekend as Ontario University Athletics (OUA) silver medallists after a tough 1-0 overtime loss to the Laurier Golden Hawks in the OUA final last weekend. Meanwhile, the Vikes were the Canada West champions, a title they earned by knocking off the Trinity Western Spartans 4-1 last weekend. In the regular season, the Lions finished with a 9-4-1 record, first in the OUA West division, while the Vikes were 9-2-3 for top spot in the Canada West standings.

The Lions won their only CIS men’s soccer championship more than 30 years ago (1977) but came close again last year, finishing in fourth place. Victoria last won the national title in 2004, the fourth in team history, and is making its first appearance at the championship since that year.

The winner of the quarter-final match will face either the Dalhousie Tigers or the Montreal Carabins in the semis. In the other half of the draw, Laurier will battle against Trinity Western while the Laval Rouge et Or will take on the host Carleton Ravens.

A new champion will be crowned this year as the defending CIS champion UBC Thunderbirds were upset by Trinity Western in the Canada West semifinals last weekend.

Championship Schedule

Thursday, Nov. 6
9am – Quarter-final #1: Victoria 0 – York 3*
11:30am – Quarter-final #2: Dalhousie vs. Montreal*
2pm – Quarter-final #3: Laurier vs. Trinity Western*
4:30pm – Quarter-final #4: Laval vs. Carleton*
8pm – All-Canadian Banquet

Friday, Nov. 7
11am – Consolation #1: Loser QF #1 vs. Loser QF #2
1:30pm – Consolation #2: Loser QF #3 vs. Loser QF #4

Saturday, Nov. 8
11:30am – 5th place game
2pm – Semifinal #1: Winner QF #1 vs. Winner QF #2*
4:30pm – Semifinal #2: Winner QF #3 vs. Winner QF #4*

Sunday, Nov. 9
Noon – Bronze medal game*
3pm – Championship final*

* Live video Web cast on SSN Canada