The York University Lions men’s soccer team will be on the hunt for its fourth consecutive conference banner this weekend, when the squad travels to Birchmount Park for the 2016 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Men’s Soccer Final Four Championships.
The four-team event will be hosted by the Ryerson Rams, 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 championship promises to be a thriller as all four teams are ranked among the top five in the U Sports national rankings. For the third year in a row, the No. 1 Lions will battle their cross-town rivals, the No. 5 Toronto Varsity Blues, in the first semifinal at noon, while the No. 3 Rams and No. 4 Guelph Gryphons will follow at 3pm. Last year at Alumni Field, the Lions defeated the Blues 1-0 in overtime and the year before that were victorious 2-0.
The Lions are looking to become the first team to win four straight OUA titles since the Western Mustangs accomplished the feat from 1996-99. Toronto’s most recent championship was in 2010 and the Gryphons have not captured the Blackwood Cup since 1990. 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. The Lions went undefeated in the regular season for the third time in five years with a 14-0-2 record and are on a remarkable run of success that has seen them lose just one game in three seasons. They finished atop the OUA West Division for the 10th straight year, and have reached the OUA Final Four nine times in the last 10 seasons, winning four championships and qualifying for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) tournament six times.
The Lions reached the semifinals with a 3-0 victory over the Western Mustangs in their OUA quarter-final match last Sunday, while the Blues got through with a 2-1 win over the Carleton Ravens. Toronto went 12-2-2 in the regular-season.
For the third year in a row, the Lions allowed the fewest goals in the OUA West, giving up just 11 in 16 regular-season games. They also had a tremendous offence that found the back of the net 49 times, the second most goals scored in the division. Toronto also boasts strong numbers in both directions as they scored 45 goals and gave up only nine.
In the other semifinal, the host Rams are looking to avenge back-to-back upsets in the same round in each of the last two years, and will be in tough competition against a talented Gryphons squad that scored more goals than any other team in the OUA this season, with 57. The Rams finished atop the OUA East for the fourth straight year with a 14-1-1 record, while the Gryphons were second in the West at 12-2-2. The Rams reached the semifinals with a 1-0 overtime win over Queen’s and the Gryphons advanced by taking out the two-time defending OUA silver medallist McMaster Marauders in their quarter-final match.
In addition to the OUA title, York, Ryerson and Toronto are competing for a berth in the CIS Men’s Soccer Championship, which will be hosted by Guelph from Nov. 10 to 13. The winners of the two semifinals on Saturday will earn the spots at the national tournament, but as hosts, the Gryphons 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.