Gryphon soccer men advance to quarter-finals

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – The defending OUA men’s soccer champion Guelph Gryphons used a pair of first-half goals to oust the Windsor Lancers from the first round of this year’s playoffs Wednesday night at the Gryphon Soccer Complex.

The Gryphs advanced to the league quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over the Lancers.

Ryan Vyrostko scored the eventual game-winner three and a half minutes into the match while Connor O’Callaghan added the other goal just less than 25 minutes later. Youssef Zaghloul assisted on both goals.

While scoring a goal within the first five minutes of a game can get the scoring team feeling overconfident and thinking the game’s going to be an easy one, that was something that didn’t concern the Gryphs.

“It’s a good thing,” Gryphon coach Keith Mason said. “I like to score a goal anytime. I don’t care how early it is, especially against Windsor. They came out on Sunday with a game plan to make them hard to beat and be defensively solid. I said to the guys that if that happens, they’d do the same today – 100 percent – so we need to get an early goal. That forces them to open up a bit. If they open up a bit, then that suits our game better and that’s exactly what happened.”

It was the second consecutive game between the teams as they had finished their regular seasons with a scoreless tie at the Gryphon Soccer Complex Sunday. The Gryphs had started their regular season with a 4-3 win at Windsor Aug. 25.

The Gryphs had finished the regular season in third place in the West Division at 11-3-2 while Windsor was sixth at 5-8-3.

Although the Gryphs scored both their goals in the first half of the playoff match, they controlled more of the play in the second half than they had in the first half.

“We just quickened up the play from the midfield to the wide men,” Mason said. “We started doing that quite well in the beginning, but as the half wore on we tailed off doing that so I just reminded them at halftime. That’s what we talked about, the spaces were wide, quicken up the play and get it out there and get around them. We did it well and that got them constantly on the back foot other than the last five to 10 minutes when they basically sent a long 10-minute Hail Mary trying to get back into it.”

“We really shut them down in the second half,” Guelph goalkeeper Simon Norgrove said. “The boys, we had a dominant performance from Minute 1 to Minute 90.”

Norgrove picked up the shutout for the Gryphs, making three saves – all of them big ones.

“Right at the end of the half, he made a couple of excellent saves and there was one in the second half that was good, too,” Mason said. “Simon spent the first eight games so he’s just working his way back to full fitness. He’s looking sharp every game. Against Western Saturday (a 1-0 win for Guelph), he was the man of the match. They got to us and he kept us in the game until we scored the winning goal.”

Norgrove was happy to get the first-half saves as that set him up well for the rest of the game.

“If you get a few touches on the ball early, it really makes it easier to adjust to the game and then throughout the game it makes it a lot smoother,” he said.

While Norgrove is back in the net after sitting out most of the first half of the season, he still isn’t 100 percent.

“It’s pretty good,” he said. “There’s been a few other injuries that has come from that, but I’m just trying to make it through the season and then get some rest after that.”

Norgrove is hampered a little with a groin issue after battling hamstring tendinitis earlier in the season.

The Gryphs took 12 shots during the match, twice as many as Windsor. They also took nine corner kicks, four more than the Lancers.

“It’s nice to get another clean sheet,” Mason said. “That’s three in a row.”

Guelph advances to play the McMaster Marauders in the league quarter-finals Sunday at McMaster. The Marauders were second in the West at 12-3-1 and beat the Gryphs both times they played in the regular season, winning 4-2 in Hamilton Sept. 10 and 2-1 in Guelph Oct. 11.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game,” Mason said. “They’re a tough side so we’ll have (Thursday) off, prepare Friday and Saturday and then go in there confident and with the self belief that we can get something out of the game.”

“We just have to come out with the same tenacity as we did today,” Norgrove said. “We just have to believe in ourselves and be confident.”

Game time Sunday is 3 p.m. Winner advances to the OUA Final Four tournament set for Nov. 3 and 4.