Gryphons capture OUA men’s soccer crown
GUELPH – The Guelph Gryphons got to hoist the Blackwood Soccer Trophy for the second time in five OUA men’s soccer league seasons as they hung on to edge the York Lions 3-2 in the championship match Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
“It was an awesome game,” Gryphon coach Keith Mason said. “We defended well. It was a shame we conceded two goals toward the end, but luckily we held on and the refs didn’t add any more minutes and we managed to squeak through. I think we thoroughly deserved it. The boys defended fantastic like we have all year and we’re OUA champions again. It feels nice.”
Guelph Gryphons 3 York 2
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” said Gryphon captain and defender Ian Vidovich. “It’s a surreal feeling, something I’ve dreamed about since coming here and to make it happen in my last year is all the better.”
The Gryphs won the league title three times before including 2016 when they beat York in the final at Scarborough’s Birchmount Stadium.
“That’s 2-0 against York at championships,” Mason said. “I have nothing but admiration and respect for York. We know how good they are and we know how tough it is so for us to be on the right side of that victory again is just phenomenal for our program.”
The Gryphs defeated the previous two league champions on their way to this year’s title as they had ousted the defending champion Carleton Ravens in the semifinals and York, title winners in 2017 and 2018, in the final.
While the Gryphs obviously needed to score goals to win, they thrived with a defensive, shut-down style of play that frustrated most opponents. It was at its best in the final and has been the key to the team’s success all season.
“It has been and you could see that again today,” Mason said. “York until the last 10 minutes really struggled to break us down. At the end they literally had how many forwards on? I lost track. One forward after another and they just threw everything at us. They scored one and got another one from a set piece, but for 80 minutes we were resolute and defended like champions. At the end of the day that’s what we’ve done all year and it’s given us the victory.”
“We did what we’ve done all year, at least we tried to do,” Vidovich said. “Credit to all the back line, goalie and everybody on the team, they did their jobs today. They did score two goals at the end and that’s something we’re going to look to fix going to Nationals.”
The defensive style was something the Gryphs had to employ out of necessity more than anything. Only twice did the Gryphs score more than two goals in a game and that came in a 5-1 victory over Ontario Tech in the preseason and a 4-0 win over Laurier in the second-last game of a 10-game regular season i which they scored 17 goals. But they allowed three all season and had eight shutout victories.
“We were struggling to score goals early on so we had to kind of develop that kind of mentality within the team that if we weren’t going to be scoring, we knew we had to keep them out,” Vidovich said. “That’s kind of stuck with us and finally the goals have started to come. It’s really paid off.”
It was the third time a University of Guelph team became league champions as they won it for the first time in 1990 when they edged the Toronto Varsity Blues 1-0 in the final at Alumni Stadium, back when the stadium had natural grass.
Guelph teams were also listed as champions three other times. Nine times in the 1950s and 1960s more than one team was listed as league title winners, including 1952 (Guelph, McGill, Western), 1958 (Guelph, McGill, Toronto) and 1961 (Guelph, McGill).
Saturday, the Gryphs scored the first three goals of the game, the first one being the only goal of the opening half, before the Lions scored twice – once in the 80th minute and the other one in the second minute of stoppage time.
Owen McKee, Lucas Doros on a penalty kick and Damian Truong scored the goals for the locals.
Dieu Merci Yuma scored both goals for York.
Saturday’s title win came exactly five years after the Gryphs finished third in the national tournament on the Alumni Stadium field with a 3-0 blanking of the Cape Breton Capers 3-0 in the bronze-medal match.
The Gryphs also won silver at Alumni Stadium in the national tournament in 1990 when they were nipped 2-1 by the UBC Thunderbirds in the gold-medal match.
As the team celebrated their win on the Alumni Stadium turf minutes after Saturday’s victory, few were thinking ahead.
“We’ve got to enjoy the moment,” Mason said. “We’ve got to enjoy the fact we’re OUA champions again. We’ll give them a day (Sunday) for rest and recovery and we’ll get refocused on Monday and just keep building on. We don’t want it to end yet. We want to keep going.”
With Carleton in the U SPORTS national tournament as hosts, the OUA final was an elimination game with the loser’s season coming to an end.
The tournament is to start Thursday with the quarterfinals. Thursday’s losers are to play in the consolation semifinals Friday while the winners advance to Saturday’s championship semifinals. The consolation final, effectively the fifth-place game, is also set for Saturday while the medal games (gold and bronze) are to be played Sunday.
- Guelph Sports Journal