There’s heat and then there’s heat. There’s the kind of heat you get on a cloudless summer’s day, oddly transplanted onto the first full day of autumn; there’s the kind of heat you feel radiating up from a turf field under a blazing midday sun; and there’s the kind of heat that’s generated by the excitement of a promising, young team, on the threshold of a new season, beginning to develop it’s own, unique chemistry. On Association Day, the UCC Varsity Soccer team and the enthusiastic fans present, experienced all that heat, and more! Playing in their first competitive game of the season, up against a perennial league powerhouse and local rival, St. Mike’s, there were a lot of burning questions being asked about this year’s squad.
The match began as expected, with early nerves settled by quick, precise passing and tough defense by both teams. On balance, UCC seemed to generate more chances and in the 18th minute, Assistant Captain Oscar Brown opened our season’s scoring and his own account with a well-placed shot that went low and hard into the St. Mike’s net. St. Mike’s retaliated with a period of sustained pressure that eventually resulted in them being awarded a penalty shot. While most may have expected the score to be equalized, our keeper, Faiz Khwaja had other ideas. With a fully extended dive, he saved the shot and held the rebound. Though it was still early in the game, that may have been the pivotal moment of the match, for with the excitement from that save, our momentum carried us forward. In the 25th minute, assistant Captain Hilli Goldhar, with one of his characteristic weaving runs through the opposition defense, was brought down in the box and we were awarded our own penalty shot. Hilli took it himself and made no mistake: UCC 2, St. Mike’s 0. The score would stand at the half.
The second half tested the stamina of both teams and fresh legs coming in from the benches played a vital roll. Captain PJ Bujouves, Sean Langlois and Thomas Santos were masterful in our centre-midfield engine room, which in that heat must have truly felt like an engine room. There were chances at both ends and Khwaja preserved our lead with some excellent saves before Brown notched his second goal. Not to be outdone, Goldhar then chested a cross from the left and volleyed it past the St. Mike’s keeper; his second of the match and an early candidate for “goal of the season”. Speedy newcomer from Montreal, Alex Cinquino added a 5th goal before St. Mike’s, who never gave up and continued to press with their skillful build-up, scored on a well-taken free kick. The final score: UCC 5, St. Mike’s 1. It was an entertaining game and a promising start to our season. Man of the Match: Faiz Khwaja, with very honorable mentions to Brown and Goldhar (who got the game winner on the PK) as well as all the varsity players for battling through the 35C + temperatures on the turf.