They’ve done it again: for the second straight year, the McMaster Marauders have been crowned OUA men’s soccer champions.
After an incredible regular season during which the team lost only game, the Marauders looked as good as ever this past weekend at McNaughton Park in Vaughan. They defeated the Queen’s Gaels 5-2 on Saturday to advance to the OUA finals against the Carleton Ravens, whom they swiftly crushed 5-0 to win gold.
The wins give the Marauders a ticket to the CIS national championship in Quebec City, taking place Nov. 8–11 at Laval University. The team hopes to use their sixth-place CIS finish last season as motivation to propel them even further at this year’s competition, which features the top talent in Canadian varsity soccer.
The route to the OUA championship didn’t come without its struggles. The semi-final game against Queen’s was a hotly contested battle that required extra time for either team to pull ahead.
The Gaels struck first at the 20th minute, with midfielder Nathan Klemencic scoring with a long ball that sailed just over McMaster goalie Angelo Cavalluzzo. The Marauders responded before the halftime buzzer sounded, with midfielder Paterson Farrell capitalizing at the 42nd minute. His goal came after the Guelph goalie stopped a shot by Marauder Ryan Garnett, leaving a huge rebound that Farrell fired right to the back of the net.
The second half opened much like the first, with Guelph taking a lead in the 67th minute off a penalty kick by Joe Zuppo. Fighting from behind for the second time in the game, the Marauders soon delivered when 2011 OUA West Rookie Gersi Xhuti netted the tying goal in the 78th minute. Xhuti celebrated his clutch goal with an impressive front flip that energized the entire team.
The back-and-forth affair was tied up 2-2 at the end of regular time, so extra time would be required to see who would advance to play in the OUA finals.
Overtime is when the Maroon and Grey truly shined. They came out ready to fight, and quickly took advantage of the shaky Queen’s defence in the 95th minute with a goal by Daniel Niksic. But it didn’t stop there: Muntazir Fadhel connected in the 110th minute for Mac’s insurance goal and McMaster leader scorer Mark Reilly scored his 12th goal of the season three minutes later to seal the deal for the Marauders.
The following day, McMaster really came out to play, and completely dominated the Carleton Ravens from start to finish. Their first goal came in the 10th minute and their last goal in the 89th, with the Marauders putting on an offensive clinic for the hapless Ravens the entire game.
Like in the game against Queen’s, Paterson Farrell scored first for Mac, in what would end up being the game-winning goal. It came off a perfectly placed cross that Farrell was able to easily one-time into a wide open net
Ten minutes later, Marauders Athlete of the Week Mark Reilly scored on a beautiful shot that came off a headed pass from midfielder David Serafini to put the Marauder up 2-0.
The Ravens began to put serious pressure on Mac toward the end of the first half, but Marauders goalie Angelo Cavalluzzo made some acrobatic saves to maintain the shutout.
The championship banner might as well have been awarded before the second half, because there was no doubt that the Maroon and Grey would be coming out on top. Goals by Muntazir Fadhel and Karl Bicamumpaka in the 58th and 61st minute, respectively, set the stage for the rest of the game, which saw Mac retaining almost constant possession.
In the final minute of the game, David Serafini scored on a breakaway, beating Carleton goalie Mark Krocko and bringing the score to a whopping 5-0.
The Ravens will be joining the Marauders in Quebec City this weekend, having earned a spot in the CIS championship by upsetting the previously undefended York Lions in their semi-final matchup.
The Marauders play their first game Thursday Nov. 8 against host team Laval at 6:30 p.m. The games can be viewed live at CIS-SIC.tv.