The No. 1 nationally ranked York University Lions men’s soccer team looks to clinch its third straight conference banner as the squad hosts the province’s best in the 2019 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) men’s soccer Final Four Championship this weekend.
The four-team event will take place at Alumni Field, with the semifinals scheduled for Friday, Nov. 1 and the gold- and bronze-medal games to be played on Saturday, Nov. 2. All four games can be seen live online on OUA.tv.
The two-day championship promises to be a thrilling event, with all four teams coming in with a U SPORTS national rank. The No. 3 Carleton Ravens (13-1-0) will face off against the No. 8 Guelph Gryphons (8-2-4) at 4 p.m., while the undefeated Lions (11-0-3) will play the No. 7 University of Toronto Varsity Blues (9-2-3) at 7 p.m.
It has been a decade of dominance in the conference for the Lions, hitting the podium for nine straight years and winning five of the past six OUA banners. They have finished atop the OUA West Division 13 years in a row and are currently riding an impressive 51-game unbeaten streak against all OUA opponents, dating back to the start of the 2017 season.
The rest of the field has all won gold once in the past 15 years. The Gryphons upset the Lions in 2016, interrupting a potential six-year run by the hosts. The Ravens have fallen to the Lions in the final for the past two years, with their last championship coming in 2005, while the Varsity Blues last hoisted the Blackwood Cup in 2010.
The Lions faced off against the Varsity Blues three years in a row at this same stage of the playoffs from 2014 to 2016, winning 2-0, 1-0 and 1-0 in that span. After defeating the McMaster Marauders at home 4-1 in the quarter-final stage, the Lions come into this weekend as the top-ranked team in the nation for the first time since Nov. 1, 2016, when they were 14-0-2. Despite conceding a goal in their last matchup, the Lions kept a clean sheet for seven straight games, boasting the nation’s best defence with 12 clean sheets and only five goals against in the regular season. They also have the best offence, with 44 goals scored in the regular season, and their +39 goal differential is the best in the country and tops the next best team by seven goals.
The Varsity Blues advanced to the Final Four after a dominant 3-1 win over then No. 5 Ryerson Rams in the quarter-finals. Third time was the charm for the lower-seeded Blues, who fought their way back to the semifinal round after a two-year hiatus, falling to the Rams in the 2017 and 2018 postseason campaigns in the quarters.
The OUA East Division-leading Ravens and OUA West second-seeded Gryphons have been the only teams, aside from the Lions, to represent the conference at nationals in the past three years. The two-time reigning OUA silver medallist Ravens will look to make good on missed opportunities, appearing in their third straight OUA Final Four after dropping Ontario Tech 5-2 at home in the quarter-final stages. The Gryphons booked their ticket to the big stage after defeating the Brock Badgers 3-0, and will look to replicate a dream postseason campaign three years ago that saw them rise to the top in 2016.
In addition to the OUA title, the four teams are also competing for a berth at the U SPORTS men’s soccer championship, which will be hosted by the Université de Montréal from Nov. 7 to 10. The winners from the two semifinals on Friday will represent the OUA on the national stage next week.
Friday’s winners will face off at 5 p.m. on Saturday in the gold-medal final, while the two losers will battle for bronze at 2 p.m.