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FREDERICTON, N.B. – Ryerson was eliminated from contention for the CIS national soccer tournament championship after a 3-2 loss to Laval at the BMO Centre on Thursday.
Torrential rain poured throughout this Canadian Interuniversity Sports quarter-final match between the Rams and the Rouge et Or. When it had stopped after 90 minutes, some tears flowed for the team, which saw its record-setting season fade in the past week.
Laval, representing the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ), opened the scoring through Fabrice Lassonde and doubled its advantage before the half with a header from Nafi Dicko-Raynauld.
Three seconds into the second frame, CIS MVP Alex Braletic scored from midfield to bring the Rams back into the match. Laval’s Patrice Dion scored the eventual game winning goal before Armin Tankovic managed a consolation strike from the penalty spot.
“We were playing catch up right from the beginning,” associate coach Filip Prostran said. ” There was a 20 to 25 minute span where they scored all their goals and we just couldn’t recover from it. Credit to them they played very well and it was a well-deserved victory.”
Laval entered the game as the third seed in the tournament and proved its worth by out-playing the Rams in the first-half. Ryerson did not record a single shot on goal as they struggled to even make their way into Laval’s box.
The Rouge et Or exploited the space behind the Rams’ fullbacks. Dion and Lassonde used quick one-touch passing to get by Michael Jan and create 1-on-1 situations against Ryerson keeper Christian Maraldo.
Lassonde exploited that gap to score the first goal – one of the nine shots on target that Laval made in the first-half.
Ryerson continued to struggle and Laval doubled the lead from a set piece. Dicko-Raynauld connected on a header from a corner-kick, sending a bullet header past Maraldo with ten minutes to go in the first-half.
The Rams needed an inspirational second-half and at least three goals against the Rouge et Or, a team that had only conceded nine goals in 12 matches this season.
Braletic showed fans why he was named the CIS MVP on Wednesday night when he outlandishly chipped Laval keeper J.F. Desrosiers from the half-way line to bring Ryerson within one goal.
“It’s got to be the goal of the tournament,” Prostran said.
Braletic’s team looked inspired by the goal it began to cause Laval trouble for the first time in the match. While Braletic had everyone on their feet with his goal, Dion tried his best to outdo the Rams’ fifth-year star.
Picking up play on right edge of the box, Dion unleashed a strike that curled past Maraldo and into the Ryerson net to once again give Laval a two goal lead.
Minutes later, Tankovic scored from the penalty spot to keep the Rams’ hopes alive. The Rams played with just three defenders during the final minutes in an attempt to find a late equalizer.
Despite a few scrambles in the Laval box, Prostran’s team could not beat Desrosiers for a third time. When the referee blew the final whistle, some of the Rams collapsed on the pitch.
The storybook undefeated season – its first ever – had ended with a second-straight loss after last weekend’s 1-0 loss to York University in the OUA finals.
Centre-back Jacob O’Connor was one of the more emotional players after the game.
“All season we’ve been fighting teams so no matter when we get down, we always have faith we’ll come back,” O’Connor said. “You saw us fighting today but we just couldn’t do it this time.”
Ryerson will face the winner of University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds vs. University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the second consolation semi-final on Friday.
“I play for first or nothing,” Prostran said. “The consolation rounds — they’re going through the motions. It was a tough loss but there’s a lot of positives from this year, although it stings now.”