OUA men’s soccer championship final four opened on Friday night at York University, featuring semi-final games, starting with the Carleton Ravens against the Guelph Gryphons. This would be followed up with the Toronto derby of York vs Toronto finishing off the night.
The first game of the afternoon pitted the Carleton Ravens who were runners up in 2018 with the Guelph Gryphons. It was the Ravens who got the better of the Gryphons, but it took a very long time. The winning and only goal were scored in extra time with the Ravens securing a berth to the 2019 U Sports championships and Saturday’s OUA final.
There as a lot of talent in the first semifinal and many parallels to the inaugural Canadian Premier League final taking place in Calgary on Saturday.
While the Ravens didn’t progress too far in the 2018 national championships, they did appear and had many players who were exceptional. Gabriel Bitar was one of those players and with his performance, earned himself the first overall selection in the inaugural Canadian Premier League draft. He played the first part of the season with Cavalry FC of Calgary before returning to Carleton, returning to education. He has had a long season, but was still full of fire in the victory over the Gryphons.
The Gryphons had a similar player in Jace Kostopoulos who was selected by Forge FC of Hamilton.
The game between the two sides pitted the two CPL’ers against each other and neither was able to have much effect on the game. through ninety minutes no goal was scored, forcing the game into an extra 30 minutes. The scoreless 90 was not put on lack of shots as the Ravens put up 19 shots compared to Guelph’s four.
The extra frame that gave us a winner and dashed the Gryphon’s final dreams back into the fairy tales. In the 105th minute, Carleton Midlfiler Daniel Assaf sent a long shot passed the Guelph goaltender to send his side into the OUA final and next weekend’s U Sports Championship.
Once his excitement simmered down, Bitar came to speak with 49 about his team’s victory. “It was tough, we couldn’t seem to break them down. Their goaltender was outstanding” said the former CPL pick. Before continuing on to say “ it is always nice to be in final, I am in a final here, Cavs are in the (CPL) final in Calgary. It’s perfect.”
Bitar’s thought resonates throughout the entire Ravens squad who were explicitly excited after their thrilling victory. On the other side of the coin, was the mask of disappointment worn by players of the Guelph Gryphons. Walking back into the locker room, many players slammed the door or shouted as they realized their championship dream had come to a halt.
Carleton showed great resilience in the face of adversity, being able to push through and earn their place in the final. The final is at 3:00 on Saturday at York University’s Alumni Field with the U Sports national championship kicking off in Montreal later this week.