This year’s Canadian Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) Senior Boys’ Soccer Tournament was hosted by St. George’s College, Vancouver. Thus, UCC’s Varsity Soccer team headed westward with the goal of reclaiming our national title. Our day of acclimatization in Vancouver began with a visit to the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, where we took in the beauty of traditional and contemporary art and cultural artifacts of the Northwest Coast First Nations. We also picked up two mascots that would provide critical inspiration for the team: Orca, whose characteristics include speed and agility, whose spirit is strong and timeless and whose teachings promote strength in family and community and a respect for the spirit within; and Mouse Woman, whose Grandmotherly wisdom guides youth in positive directions and whose teachings include respectfulness, honesty and balance. Next we went to St. George’s for a practice to loosen up our travel-weary legs and to work on quick passing, chipping the keeper and outside-of-the-foot shots. Finally, we headed to the edge of the city for a hike into the temperate rainforest at Deep Cove. The undulating trail, as it hugged the steep and rugged mountain flanks, provided a rigorous workout and culminated in a spectacular view overlooking in ocean inlet. Here, as the sun set, in a moment of quiet contemplation, our team sat and reflected upon the stunning, natural beauty surrounding them, the distance they had journeyed to this point and the challenging task that lay ahead.
Our tournament play began the following morning. Whatever precipitation refused to fall all summer long in Vancouver, apparently fell that Thursday morning. The temperatures were cool and the rains descended steadily and heavily. Our first game was at UBC against St. George’s second team (a late addition when one team dropped out). Despite the harsh conditions, we started with speed and agility. After only 5 minutes, Sean Langlois broke free on a pass from Justin Kim, and chipped their keeper just as we had practiced. Next on the score sheet was veteran striker Oscar Brown. The game was delayed for 30 minutes due to lightning but in the second half we continued to play well. The final score: UCC 6 – St. George’s 2nds O. The Man-of-the-Match was Langlois.
Our second game was against our old rival from down river, Lower Canada College. By this point, the skies had cleared. Respectful of our worthy opponent, we came out strong, but LCC proved to be up for the challenge. The game saw lots of action back and forth but in the end, it was Man-of-the-Match Oscar Brown who made the difference. Final score: UCC 1 – LCC 0.
As the sun rose on a cool, clear Friday morning, our final game of the round robin kicked off against our Toronto neighbor, The York School. The match was rather one-sided in our favour but TYS was determined and played well until the final whistle. Man-of-the-Match: with a hat-trick, Alex Cinquino. With 3 wins, we finished top of our group and drew another Toronto neighbor, Crescent School, in the quarter final of the Gold Division. This was a hard-fought , physical game, played with strength and spirit. Final score: UCC 3 – CS 1. The Man-of-the-Match was Mark Yatchew. This took us into the semi-final against our CAIS archrival, from the west coast, St. George’s. The senior team from the host school had been filling the net, totaling 30 goals in the first four games, while allowing only 2. Our lads knew that we were in for an exciting game.
Saturday morning arrived and the sky was as threatening and as ominous as our opponents. But the Blues approached the game in a positive direction, understanding that the best opponents can bring out the best in each other, and we welcomed the opportunity to test ourselves against them. Again, we began with speed and agility and again it was Sean Langlois who crafted the opening strike in the first 5 minutes. This time, after receiving a perfect pass from Thomas Santos in midfield, he lobbed the keeper, ran around him and tapped the ball into the net. St. George’s were big, fast and skilled and they battled back but we matched them with our own our balance of strong defense and quick, precise passing. In the 10th minute, it was Langlois yet again, who, after weaving through their midfield, stunned everyone with a masterful, outside-of-the-foot shot from the edge of the box, that dipped and swerved into the top right corner of the net, just under the crossbar. It was a magnificent strike that could well have been the goal of the tournament. St. George’s responded quickly this time and more decisively. They carried the play forward and scored with a fine shot from their striker. Trailing by a goal, they continued to press and were rewarded when one of our players was shown a red card, after receiving his second yellow card in the game. Now we were down to 10 men, with three quarters of the game to go. The second half was a battle as we had to play more defensively with Langlois as our only forward. We defended against the relentless waves of attacks from our opponents, only occasionally, counter attacking. Our defence led by Ashebir, Broer and Yatchew stood firm and with our amazing keeper Jeremy Zhang (and our lucky mascots) on our side, we held the narrow lead to the end but not before SGV hit the woodwork twice, Justin Kim cleared of the line, and Zhang pulled a miraculous point blank save in time added on. We had pulled off the big upset of the confident home side. Men of the Match: Langlois & Zang.
It was now time to rest, recover and wait for the final against Appleby College (who defeated SAC in the other semifinal) in a few short hours.
Under overcast afternoon skies, The Blues took to the field with a large spectator crowd made of the other tournament participants. We started slowly against a fired up AC squad who hit a post from a free kick in the 2nd minute. After Oscar Brown failed to convert at the Appleby far post our opponents hit the post again on another free kick on the edge of our box. The insertion of fresh rookie striker Luka Chu seemed to spark the Blues and in the 31st minute, Chu’s shot was parried by the AC keeper straight to Langlois, who, finished coolly. 1:0 ! After halftime, The Blues came out strong and in the 58 minute Chu dribbled through the AC defense and served the ball to Brown who tapped it in to make the score 2:0. The second goal took the wind out of the AC sails and in the 70th minute, Luka Chu again walked trough the AC defense from the left and potted his own goal by chipping the keeper. Final score UCC 3: AC 0. Man of the Match Luka Chu
The Blues had earned their second CAIS National title in 3 years and the tenth overall for UCC. Oscar Brown (9 goals) was awarded the MVP trophy of the finals as voted by the coaches of all competing CAIS teams.
Team Awards: Mark Yatchew and Jeremy Zhang were defensive players of the tournament and Sean Langlois was the offensive player & MVP of the tournament (7 total goals of which 5 were in the knockout rounds).
We would like to thank our physio Rae Firmeza for keeping us healthy throughout the grueling tournament (and finding the best breakfast spot in Vancouver).
Coaches Turner and Hamr