One more win, and one step closer to the OUA championship. With the defeat of the Guelph Gryphons, the McMaster Marauders men’s soccer team moved into the OUA Final Four. The match at Ron Joyce Stadium was a cold and wet affair, but the weather could not keep Mac down as they finished the day with a dominating performance, winning 2-0.
This game was the third match-up of 2012 between the two teams, with McMaster winning both of the previous tilts. Sunday would be no different and that was clear from the beginning. In the 7th minute, Ryan Garnett looked to put his team in front with a shot just wide of the goalmouth. Mac would keep their foot on the gas pedal, mounting an offensive onslaught for the next fifteen minutes of play. The tie would be broken when the Gryphon defender committed a handball in the box to give the Maroon and Grey an opportunity to take lead with a penalty kick.
Midfielder David Serafini would step up to take the kick and leave no doubt, placing the ball well past the Guelph goalkeeper’s reach to give the Marauders a 1-0 lead. Seeing the ball hit the mesh gave Mac confidence, as they would have another opportunity a minute later. McMaster’s leading regular season goal scorer Mark Reilly had a chance to increase the separation but his shot would also roll narrowly past the goal post.
Taking a 1-0 lead into the half, momentum seemed to be in favour of the home team. But second half play would get rough with aggression from both sides and a Gryphon goal felt possible given their inspired play. The Maroon and Grey stood tall and scored another goal to ensure the Guelph Gryphons would come to an end on Mac’s campus. Gersi Xhuti found himself alone on the right side of the pitch and made no mistake with the opportunity, using a left-footed boot to beat the Gryphon keeper in the 66th minute.
Despite their season on the line, the Gryphons were unable to muster up any real offense pressure. McMaster was able to control the pace for the rest of the match with passing and communication from every third of the pitch. Goalkeeper Angelo Cavalluzzo would not be beat on Guelph’s best opportunity off of a corner kick and preserved a clean sheet victory.
Defeating Guelph puts McMaster in an OUA Final Four spot, where they will face off against the Queen’s Gaels. The Gaels play in the OUA East conference and finished with an 11-1-2 record. McMaster will face one of their toughest challenges of the season in Queen’s, who allowed a league-best eight goals this season.
The Final Four tournament will be hosted by York University over the upcoming weekend and the Marauders enter the competition as the reigning champions. The road to back-to-back OUA titles will not be an easy one as all four teams remaining are ranked in top ten of CIS men’s soccer.