Assistant Sports Editor
Stepping onto the practice field Tuesday night, members of the McMaster men’s soccer team could be heard exclaiming “We’re ranked! We’re ranked!” among various other expletives and confident words.
The men are jubilant for good reason as well; the Marauders are the newest members of the 2011 CIS top ten national men’s soccer rankings, coming in at no. 7.
McMaster earned the honor after becoming the first team to defeat the defending national champion York Lions this season. The two teams faced off last Friday at Ron Joyce with the maroon and grey shutting out their heavyweight opponent 2-0.
“It was a great result, we worked hard preparing for the game, it was good to go out there and beat the best team in the country, we worked hard and it was good to show everyone in the OUA that we can compete at this level, it is good for us,” fourth-year goalkeeper Matt Grant said this week at practice.
The Marauders not only physically outmatched the Lions, but mentally as well.
“We got a red card early, and it ended up being a scrappy game. They were getting frustrated; we out played them the whole game. I don’t think they were expecting a close game from us, because they usually go out there with the confidence of being the best team in the country,” said Grant.
The Marauders have gained a tremendous confidence from the York victory, and they tried to take that swagger to the field against the Guelph Gryphons on Saturday at home.
Unfortunately, the game did not yield a result that would continue the jubilance. After 90 minutes of good soccer and a beautiful Guelph strike, the game ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw.
“Guelph was a missed opportunity for us to jump ahead in the standings, which are very close. First and third place are separated by four points,” said Grant.
The Marauders may even be further ahead in the standings if not for a mid season draw with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks. However during that game McMaster was missing some key players including team Captain Anthony Costa, who scored against York, surely contributing to the 0 – 0 draw.
After that game, Costa offered a prediction for the upcoming trip to Oshawa to play an away game at UOIT. Surely looking to send a message, Costa shared his feelings on the upcoming rematch.
“I’ll say this, when we go over there, it is going to be a completely different story,” Costa warned.
With only four games remaining on the schedule against traditionally softer opponents, Costa and the rest of the team have a chance to solidify themselves atop the OUA West and possibly even climb the National rankings.
“It’s great to be nationally ranked through the middle of the season. It’s a great feeling. We’ll be looking to continue to climb the rankings and prove to the country that were not a one-trick pony,” said Grant.
Although the triumph marks large step in the right direction, beating the defending national champions during the season is different from a national championship.
The fact of a win like that however, is now the team carries with it the expectations that come with entering the picture as a national powerhouse.
Whether the team can live up to the bar they have set for themselves is a completely different story. One that will continue to write itself as the regular season concludes and the daring road to the championship begins. Playing each of the remaining teams once earlier in the season, the Marauders have scored 13 goals allowing only one in those four games.
Up next for McMaster are the Brock Badgers whom they will host this Friday, Oct. 14 at Ron Joyce Stadium. Last time the two teams faced off in St. Catharines, the Marauders looked like a championship contender, winning 4-1.