Royals men’s soccer dazzle at Nationals
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
After a 5-5-2 season, the Nationals Championships is the last place I’d expect to see the Douglas College Royals’ men’s soccer team. However, after a late season surge saw them taking gold at the PACWEST Provincial Championships, the Royals have established themselves as a late season surprise. Going into the tournaments, I had the Royals as Bronze underdogs, but what happened was truly astounding.
The first match of the tournament saw the Royals take on the Algonquin Thunder. A choppy first 45 minutes saw both saw sides trade chances, but nothing of quality. It wasn’t until the 65th minute that either team broke the ice. A nearly direct free kick gave the Royals the opportunity to go up on the board. Specialist free kick taker Eric Ray was called up to take the shot. Ray made no mistake, slamming the ball into the top corner of the net and giving the Royals the lead.
But the football zebras giveth, and they taketh. In a mirror opportunity on the other side of the field, the Thunder tied the game. After 90 minutes, it remained tied 1-1. Extra time was exciting but solved nothing, and just like that, we were headed for penalties.
The Royals shooters knew exactly how to score, and did so with ease. On the other hand, the Thunder had Ryo Mizuno to beat. The Japanese international keeper made two diving saves to earn the Royals the win. Quinn Dawson was named player of the match for the Royals, but I think everyone knew who the best player on the field for the Royals was.
The semi-finals pitted the Royals against the Keyano Huskies. The Huskies played well but couldn’t get anything going against the aggressive Royals. The Royals capped the first half off with a wonderful free kick taken by Edris Najm to put them up 1-0.
While both sides pushed to score in the second, it wouldn’t be until stoppage time in the 90th minute that either team would get anything. In a daring move, the Huskies sent their goalkeeper forward in an attempt to tie the game. Ryo Mizuno made two huge saves off the attempt to keep the Royals in the lead, and Race Williams punished the move with a swift counter. It would’ve been a riot had Williams missed on the wide open net after racing it down the field, but he didn’t and the Royals finished the game 2-0 and punched their ticket to the gold medal match.
Unsurprisingly, awaiting them in the finals were the host and PACWEST rivals, the VIU Mariners. It was an exciting game, but a drab affair. A mistake early in the game cost the Royals as the Mariners put one into the net. With the lead, the Mariners did nothing. Well that’s not exactly true, they played well. They just parked the bus and let the Royals run at them with the ball.
In all fairness, excellent defence is a strength. But in the gold medal final of the CCAA National Championship, nothing was worse than watch the Mariners pass the ball amongst themselves, waiting for time to tick down. The Royals did have one opportunity, and had seemingly tied the game. But the referee called offside, and the Mariners hunkered down even more. Unable to penetrate the Mariners wall of defenders the Royals failed to equalize, and dropped the match, 1-0.
The loss meant that the Royals would be taking home silver. But for a team that finished 5-5-2 on the season, silver is quite the fine lining. The Royals can be proud of what they’ve achieved this season. The players and coaches have created something great, and no matter what happens, they can be proud of this moment.