Piccioli brace leads Carleton to OUA title in Plada’s debut season

TORONTO, ON – The Carleton Ravens are back on top in OUA men’s soccer, claiming their first conference title since 2019 and fourth in their history with a 3-1 victory over the York Lions on Saturday in Ottawa. 

After playing to a 1-1 draw through the first half, Carleton found their winning marker in the 67th minute, as Rafael Garcia sent a low-driven corner kick into a crowd in the penalty area, allowing Omar Darwish to get a foot on the ball and smash it past York’s defenders to take a second-half lead. 

Luca Piccioli scored Carleton’s first and third goals on the afternoon. 

The match saw both teams attack in spells, with Carleton finding success with set pieces and maintaining possession on second balls, while York attempted to hit on the counterattack. At the same time, the Lions did everything they could to work the ball to talismanic Tyler Attardo in attacking areas. 

The Lions opened the scoring in the 28th minute, as Matthew Molicola collected the ball down the right wing and spotted Attardo’s run between Carleton’s centrebacks before ending an aerial ball for the former Valour FC forward to finish first time past Carleton’s Tyler David for a 1-0 lead. 

However, York’s advantage didn’t last long, with the Ravens drawing level on a 32nd-minute 35-yard free kick from Luca Piccioli, who took advantage of a York goalkeeping error. With Alessio Carbone well off his line, Piccioli looped the ball over the diminutive keeper and into the goal, leaving Carbone well away from the shot despite being fully outstretched. 

Piccioli extended Carleton’s lead to 3-1 in the 89th minute, splitting York’s centreback pairing of Chris Melino and Kelvin Ramirez after being played inside by Kevin Kaba. 

The victory marked Carleton’s first since 2019 and the first under head coach Marcelo Plada, who took over the program in July 2023 after long-time head coach Kwesi Loney became Carleton Athletics’ Director of High Performance Sport. 

York were missing key midfielder Christian Zeppieri, who scored in their semifinal win over Ontario Tech but took his shirt off in celebration, earning himself a second yellow card and red card. At the same time, York head coach and Canada Men’s National Team assistant coach Carmine Isacco also missed the final on a red card suspension. 

With the title and banner secured, the Ravens clinched a top-four seed at the U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, while the York Lions enter the tournament as the OUA No. 2 seed. 

Carleton defeated the Toronto Varsity Blues and Brock Badgers in the first two rounds of the OUA Playoffs before taking down York in the OUA Championship match. 

(Richard Coffey)

For York, who played in their ninth OUA final in the last 10 seasons, the loss saw their OUA title streak extended to five seasons, last winning the conference in 2018. However, they will welcome back Zeppieri and Isacco for the national championship tournament. 

With the OUA Final settled, the field is confirmed for the U SPORTS tournament, with Carleton and York joining UBC, Mount Royal, Cape Breton, StFX, Montreal and UQTR. 

Earlier in the day, the Ottawa Gee-Gees won the OUA Women’s Soccer Championship over the Queen’s Gaels.

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