York Lions win second straight soccer championship

OUA Men's Soccer Champions cropped for YFile homepage. Team picture with the championship banner.
OUA Men's Soccer Champions cropped for YFile story
The Ontario University Athletics Men’s Soccer champions pose with the championship banner.

The York University Lions men’s soccer team won its second straight Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship on Sunday with a 2-0 victory over the McMaster University Marauders at Ron Joyce Stadium.

The banner is the fourth in program history for the Lions and the third since 2007. They also won in 1977.

Striker Jarek Whiteman was named the Porter Airlines player of the match after scoring the second goal and generating numerous opportunities throughout the contest.

“It feels great to win [the OUA title],” said Whiteman. “We tried to be better with every roll of the ball like our coach said, and we just stayed as a unit and all of our hard work has paid off. We are still not satisfied though; we need to go nationals and do what set out to do.”

After a slow opening few minutes of the contest, a fortuitous bounce got York on the scoreboard first in the 20th minute.

Midfielder Eric Amato struck a ball from the top of the 18-yard box, and in an effort to deflect the shot away from the Marauders goal, McMaster defender Nicholas Vecchi threw up his leg and deflected the ball into his own net.

Handed an early lead, the Lions controlled the play much of the first half but were unable to add another tally to the scoreboard.

Playing in front of a very pro-McMaster home crowd, the Marauders controlled the ball for significant stretches early in the second half, but it was the Lions who nearly stretched their lead, when a missile from Whiteman rang off the crossbar.

Soon after, the Marauders had a prime scoring chance of their own. Midfielder Marco Gennaccaro swung a cross pass that landed on the foot of Sasha Ricciuti, who snuck behind two York defenders and was alone at the top of the six-yard box. Unfortunately for McMaster, Riccitui sent the ball high over top of the York goal.

With the clock ticking down, the Marauders again narrowly missed tying the game on an unexpected scoring opportunity.

From 35 yards out, defender Aleksandar Vincic launched a ball towards Lions goalkeeper Andrew D’Souza. With D’Souza playing high out in front of the net, he was forced to backtrack to his own goal line to catch the ball arcing towards the goal. He was able to catch the ball, however his momentum nearly carried him far enough into his own net that the ball would have crossed the goal line. He dove forwards to keep it out, and succeeded within inches.

It was literally a game-saving stop for D’Souza, as less than a minute later Whiteman sealed the game for good when he started a brilliant run into the 18-yard box and sent a rocket of a kick into the McMaster goal.

The whistle was blown soon after, and the Lions celebrated their second straight conference title.

Both teams had already qualified for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships with their semifinal wins and will head to Charlottetown this week to battle against the top eight teams from across the country. The Lions will be looking to win their third national banner in seven years after being crowned champions in 2008 and 2010.