(Nov 1st) – There are many maxims in sport (with too many being clichéd :), but “It’s Hard to Win” and “The best team doesn’t always win” felt particularly relevant today at the CISAA Championship when UCC could not put away St. Michael’s College, despite monopolizing quality chances and controlling the bulk of play. St. Mike’s strategy was clear from the outset: pack their own end with 10 men behind the ball and wait for counter attacks. They played disciplined, spirited football in this formation and seemed to thrive in the underdog role. The Blues would open up the account early on with a nice cross from Elias Hammoud that Andrew Rodrigues converted to put the home side up 1-0. St. Mike’s would answer with a free kick from dangerous #17 that keeper Sebastian Jones did not fully control and was subsequently cashed in by an SMC forward to draw the game level. This bad luck goal seemed to tilt the momentum of the game. The Blues would nevertheless spend most of the remainder of the half in the St. Mike’s end, missing multiple opportunities, including hitting a goal post, until scrappy striker Eli Preston put the team ahead 2-1 on a scramble play off of a shot on net.
The second half was more of the same, with UCC being unable to effectively break down the very crowded St. Mike’s defensive area, despite concerted attempts. Justin Jamal, who was excellent throughout the game in the central midfield position, would hit a goal post. Lucas Fiorini also narrowly missed a goal on a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box, with the St. Mike’s keeper (who was outstanding throughout) making a superb save that had all sides applauding. Sensing a potential upset in the making, St. Mike’s began to generate more opportunities with the Blues looking fatigued. The back four of Benjamin Ruthard, Nigel Radhakrishnan, Robbie Evans, and Nick Reszetnik battled relentlessly to keep the team ahead. Josh Gelfand and Elias Hammoud also continued to do very good work on the wings initiating offense through skilled passing sequences and long runs. Sebastian Jones was very calm throughout and made an excellent save of his own, off another free kick from #17. Eli Preston would finally put the team up 3-1 with minutes remaining in the game, outsprinting the last St. Mike’s defender on a long ball opportunity and slamming it home – sending the sizable student section crowd into euphoria. It was a very hard fought win, and St. Mike’s deserves a ton of credit for their hard working and skilled effort. UCC also deserves accolades for remaining composed, executing the game plan and handling the pressure that goes with being the decided favourite. They also beat their opponents for the third time in a row, which is never an easy thing to do.
The U14 soccer team finished with a perfect 12-0 season record, in what is arguably the most challenging league format (home and away) at the Upper School. To be that consistent, the team had to draw on all of its considerable depth (a large 19-man roster) over the course of a demanding season. Coaches Moon and McKell always felt that whoever was put into the game, the quality of the side did not diminish, which speaks volumes about the talent on the team. The future of the UCC soccer programme is very bright indeed.
The coaches would like to thank all of the parents for supporting the team, especially team parent Emily Shapiro (Ben Ruthard’s mom) who continually kept everyone informed about scheduling and took game photos for the website. All of the players are to be congratulated for an outstanding season, which will be remembered for a long time. Well done.