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The Ryerson Rams men’s soccer team lost its first game of the year in the most untimely fashion, falling short against the York Lions 1-0 in the OUA finals at Birchmount Stadium Sunday.
The game marked an end to Ryerson’s hopes of securing the first OUA championship in school history, though the team will have a shot at glory once more in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national tournament.
Speaking after the game, assistant coach Filip Prostran lamented his team’s chances, but also stressed that the nationals were the Rams’ primary goal of the year, and that a loss in the finals could serve as a wake-up call to his players.
“Games like this, it’s going to come down to one chance,” said Prostran. “They had their half chance and they scored, we had our half chance at the end, and we didn’t.”
“We needed to experience a loss,” said Rams goalkeeper Christian Maraldo. “I think a loss – unfortunately in the OUA finals – is good for us so we can experience that and know this feeling of losing and not bringing it to the national tournament.”
The game was, in truth, a one-sided affair. York controlled much of the possession, created more chances and scored the only goal of the game.
Mark-Anthony Kaye scored in added time of the first half. Kaye pushed forward before cutting the ball to his left and snapping the shot. The ball deflected off a Ryerson defender and beat the keeper, giving York a precious lead right before the half-time whistle.
Ryerson struggled to control the ball in midfield and couldn’t find an equalizing effort. York moved the ball well, with Jonathan Lao and Dylan Sacramento connecting with Kaye on the wing on several occasions.
York held onto the lead and survived a late scare by Luca Lee, who got on the end of a rebounding shot struck by Armin Tankovic. A bit of solid defending secured the 1-0 score line and the title for York. It’s the Lions’ second OUA title, the last coming in 2007.
“You have to put this in the past, and look forward,” said Rams player and OUA east rookie-of-the-year Cameron Galea-Andrews. “We want to look forward to bigger things now, and that’s winning the national championship.”
Ryerson made the finals after defeating the Windsor Lancers 1-0 on Saturday. Martin Dabrowski scored in the first half and gave Ryerson the win. After the match, an emotional Dabrowski spoke to the press.
“It’s been a hard week for my family,” said Dabrowski. “My dad passed away on Monday. I did it for him, to be honest.”
Dabrowski’s goal put Ryerson into the finals, and gave the Rams a spot in the CIS national tournament. The Rams made no secret of their desire to make the CIS nationals and, having met that goal, will be full of confidence heading into the tournament.
“The national berth is what we were looking for, that’s where all of our focus is right now,” said Prostran.
“[The loss] isn’t really going to affect us,” said Tankovic. “We’ve been here before, especially us older guys. We’ve been here for five years and have experienced a lot worse than this.”
The CIS nationals begin this Thursday. Eight teams from across Canada will battle it out for the national title. This year’s nationals will be held in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Rams head into the tournament ranked No. 6 and will face No.3 Laval Rouge et Or in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
Photos by Marissa Dederer