Men’s soccer medals at Nationals
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
Medalling at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Soccer Championship is no easy task. Teams first have to slog through their seasons to qualify for the playoffs. If they make it to Provincials, they have to make it to at least the final to book a ticket to the National Championship. And after all that, if there’s anything left in the tank, they have to face off against the top eight teams in the country. This year, while the squad had their sights set on gold, the Royals can’t be too upset with bronze medals.
“We faced all kinds of adversity throughout the week and I am impressed with our performance. It is extremely hard to bounce back from a loss, but we managed to do it and come back with bronze,” said keeper Marc Mincieli.
That loss was the tournament opener against the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks. “It was one of those games where we couldn’t score if our lives depended on it. We missed chance after chance after chance to put it away early, and they capitalized the first chance they got,” said coach Robby Toor.
That first opportunity for NAIT came 45 seconds into the second half. NAIT put away a penalty kick midway through the half to bring the score to 2-0 and the Royals couldn’t get back into it.
“We still had chances, but it just didn’t fall that way for us,” said coach Toor.
The next match was against the host team, the University of New Brunswick (UNB) Seawolves. The game started off similarly to the loss to NAIT, with Douglas unable to find the back of the net early on. The Royals fell behind 1-0 and then watched things go from bad to worse when Mincieli picked up a red card. Unwilling to throw in the towel, the Royals came out of half-time re-energized. Three unanswered goals placed them firmly in the driver’s seat, and while UNB tried to claw back into the game, their second of the game was too little, too late.
In the bronze semi-final, the team took on the MacEwan University Griffins.
“It was probably one of our most complete games of the tournament. They were the Alberta champs and we really took it to them,” remarked Toor.
And take it to them they did, the final score being 4-1, despite Douglas having only nine players on the pitch at the end of the game due to injuries and rest for the bronze final.
To finish the tournament, the Royals took on a familiar foe, once again facing NAIT. The game finished 1-1 in regulation before Douglas took it in penalty kicks.
“It was the same kind of story as the first game. We have bad luck against NAIT this year it seems. It went back and forth and ended up going to PK’s with them… we won our first PK’s as a men’s Douglas College soccer team… in history? The last 15 years?” said coach Paul Bahia with a laugh. “It was a good win for us. Very good for the boys to bounce back after that first loss and bring home a medal.”
Mincieli also expressed his pleasure about the bronze. “We were excited to get a rematch versus NAIT for the bronze medal. We all felt a sense of relief with the win and made the trip back much more enjoyable.”
It’s the end of the road for the Royals season, and for some, like Mincieli, the end of their careers in a Douglas uniform. Of the final game against NAIT, Mincieli commented that it was, “Capping off what can only be described as an emotional roller coaster as a Douglas athlete,” before finishing, “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
For the rest of the squad they can start looking forward to next season. And with a team that saw considerable success even though it was comprised of a great number of rookies, coach Bahia was clear he likes what the future may hold. “We feel the program is definitely going in the right direction. A lot of rookies came in and played huge roles and next year the majority of them will be all back and they’re going to have that one year of playing college soccer under their belts so they’ll be that much more valuable. Plus we have a lot of core third and fourth year players coming back. So hopefully get back to Nationals in Toronto next year and get a chance to play for that gold.”