Men’s soccer takes home OUA silver

The Carleton Ravens men’s soccer team traveled to Toronto to take part in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs over the weekend of Nov. 3 and 4.

The Ravens’ first game was the semi-finals of the OUA Final Four, where they beat the McMaster Marauders 3-0. The following day the Ravens fell to the York Lions in the final by a score of 2-0, good enough for a silver medal.

In the semi-final matchup against McMaster, the two team’s strong defensive play stifled any offensive momentum. Battling back and forth, both teams remained scoreless in the first half.

Early in the second half, Ravens forward Stefan Karajovanovic passed the ball through the Marauders defence to Ravens midfielder Ricky Comba who then fired the ball into the back of the net past Marauders goaltender Jesse Di Domenico.

Seventeen minutes later, Ravens forward Gabriel Bitar dashed down the right side of the field and sent the ball sailing into the back of the net to give Carleton a 2-0 lead late in the game.

Before the final whistle, Bitar scored his second of the game when he sent the ball into the back of the net to lift the Ravens to a 3-0 victory over the Marauders.

The Ravens now looked towards a game against the York Lions, who placed at the top of the OUA West. This finals appearance would be the Ravens’ first since 2012. The semi-final win also secured the Ravens a place at the U Sports men’s soccer championship.

According to Ravens head coach Kwesi Loney, the many first-year players on the team haven’t hindered the Ravens this season.

“Sometimes the inexperience at this level is a good thing, we aren’t overthinking the [games],” Loney said in an email.

In the gold medal game against York on Nov. 4, the game got off to a heated start as players on both teams were attempting to net the go-ahead goal.

Lions midfielder Dylan Carreiro put York on the board in the final seconds of the first half when he sent the ball flying past Ravens goaltender Nick Jeffs to put York ahead 1-0, giving the Ravens something to think about during the halftime break.

Twenty-five minutes into the second half, Lions midfielder Joey Cicchillo fired the ball into the back of the net past Jeffs. The Ravens held the York offence at bay for the rest of the game but were unable to score one of their own, ending the game 2-0.

The Lions came away with gold in the OUA finals and head into the U Sports championships with their fourth OUA banner in five seasons.

“We came into the games knowing that we were about to face one of the best teams in Canada. We were very happy about a great 3-0 win and very disappointed by a 2-0 loss,” Karajovanovic said. “We just committed a couple mistakes, which cost us the game and weren’t able to be clinical enough.”

Despite the tough loss in the finals, the team has a lot to look forward to, with the Ravens cleaning up at the OUA awards. Bitar led the OUA in scoring and won both MVP in the OUA East as well as Rookie of the Year. He is the first Ravens player to win both awards in a single season.

The Ravens were well represented on the list of OUA East first-team all-stars with six out of 11 players coming from Carleton. Of the six Ravens named to the all-star team, five are first-year players.

Loney capped off his second season at the helm of the Ravens by being named the OUA East Coach of the Year.

“I feel positive . . . we have performed all season long for an opportunity to compete with the best programs in the nation,” Loney said. “We are not trying to change much going into nationals. We will talk about ways to become more efficient and limit our mistakes in games.”

The Ravens’ first game at the U Sports championships will take place on Nov. 9 against the Université de Montreal Carabins in Kamloops, B.C.

Photo by Meagan Casalino