The York University Lions men’s soccer team will battle for its third straight provincial banner this weekend, as the squad hosts the 2015 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Men’s Soccer Final Four Championships.
The four-team event will be held at York Stadium, with the semifinals scheduled for Saturday and the gold- and bronze-medal games to be played on Sunday. All four games can be seen live online on OUA.tv.
This year’s semifinal match-ups are exactly the same as last season. The host Lions will battle their cross-town rivals, the Toronto Varsity Blues, in the second semifinal at 2pm, while the Ryerson Rams and McMaster Marauders will kick off action on Saturday at 11am.
Last year at Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton, Ont., the Lions defeated the Blues 2-0 and the Marauders edged past the Rams on penalty kicks.
Before York’s current run of back-to-back titles, the Marauders won two in a row (2011-12) and the Varsity Blues claimed the banner in 2010. The Rams have never won the men’s soccer championship but were silver medallists in 2013.
The Lions will be favoured against the Blues in this year’s semifinal as top seeds in the West, while Toronto finished second in the OUA East. After last year’s undefeated record, the Lions suffered their first loss to a conference opponent in nearly two years earlier this season, but otherwise picked up points in every game, going 13-1-2 to finish atop the OUA West Division for the ninth straight year.
They have reached the OUA Final Four eight times in the last nine seasons, winning three championships and qualifying for the CIS tournament five times.
The Lions have been nationally ranked in 51 straight polls dating back to Week 6 in 2010, spent four weeks in the top spot this year and are currently ranked No. 2, the highest of the OUA teams.
The Lions reached the semifinals with a nail-biting 4-3 overtime victory over the Guelph Gryphons in their OUA quarter-final match last Sunday, while the No. 6 Blues got through with a narrow 1-0 win over the Queen’s Gaels. Toronto went 11-3-2 in the regular season.
For the second year in a row, the Lions scored more goals and allowed fewer than any other team in the OUA. Their defence allowed just eight goals in 16 regular-season games, three fewer than any other team in the conference, and their offence found the back of the net 47 times.
In the other semifinal, the OUA East’s top-seeded Rams went 11-2-3 in the regular season and cruised to a 3-0 victory over the Carleton Ravens in their quarter-final.
Ranked No. 4 nationally, they will be looking to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss to the No. 10 Marauders, who enter this weekend as the OUA West’s second seed. The perennially strong Marauders had a more challenging regular season with an 11-5-0 mark that put them third in the standings, but a 1-0 upset victory over the Windsor Lancers in the quarter-finals put them back in familiar territory as one of the last four teams remaining. They also defeated the Laurier Golden Hawks 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs.
In addition to the OUA title, Ryerson, McMaster and Toronto are competing for a berth in the CIS Men’s Soccer Championship, which will take place at York Stadium from Nov. 12 to 15. The winners of the two semifinals on Saturday will earn the spots at the national tournament, but as hosts the Lions have already secured their spot and so, should they reach the OUA final, the third berth will go to the winner of Sunday’s bronze-medal match.