Not all that glimmers is gold The first round bye seemed to haunt the men’s soccer team as their quest to glory was put on hold for yet another year after a disastrous championship weekend in York

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The Marauders were flying high entering their quarterfinal matchup against the reigning Ontario University Athletics champions, the Guelph Gryphons. Mac was administered a tough task against the Gryphons, knowing Guelph had previously won their first round matchup with ease.

Coming off a bye week, the Marauders were well rested and determined to capture the trophy so many other teams sought after. Despite a season with questionable defending, the Marauders were able to slow down the Gryphon offence, keeping them at bay allowing only four shots, en route to their impressive 1-0 win while getting redemption for last year’s early playoff exit. The quarterfinal win sent McMaster to the final four for the first time in three seasons.

On Nov. 3, York University played host to the medal round after finishing first place during the regular season, granting them the pleasure of home field advantage. This weekend saw the final four teams battle head-to-head, all attempting to claim the right to be crowned champions. McMaster was seeded to face an explosive Carleton University, who previously won their quarterfinal matchup 7-0.

“I believe we were all mentally prepared heading into Friday’s game, knowing that if we came out victorious, we would get the opportunity to play in British Columbia for nationals,” said keeper Jesse Di Domenico.

Inevitably, the game began with both teams reluctant to make the first mistake, resulting in a series of long balls and errant passes while the teams tried to feel each other out. The first half saw neither team able to distinguish who was more dominate, making room for an exciting and highly anticipated second half.

Unfortunately for McMaster, the second half was abysmal. The Marauders came out flat, conceding the first goal within the first five minutes of the second half.

Five Marauders were named to the OUA All-Star team. Striker Dusan Kovacevic and midfielder Yunus Mollayev were selected to the First Team. Tony Li, Sasha Ricciuti and Jesse Di Domenico were added to the Second Team. 

The opening goal changed the dynamic of the game for the Marauders as they were forced to attack. Unfortunately, this left their defence as a liability, which the Ravens intended on fully exposing. Offence was the issue for the Marauders as the Ravens kept McMaster off the score sheet throughout the entire 90 minutes, securing their 3-0 victory.

“They had a strong attacking line which exposed us on the counter attack,” explained Di Domenico. “We kept up and played well during the first half but we just couldn’t generate any attack, which led to no scoring chances. We lost control of the game in the second half.”

Di Domenico was McMaster’s best player throughout the duration of the match. Despite conceding three goals, he made multiple saves in consecutive fashion helping keep the frustrated Marauders in the game for majority of the match, ultimately stopping 12 of the 15 shots he faced.

With Friday’s game in the past and the bronze medal match on the horizon, the Marauders were looking to sharpen up their attack against the Ryerson Rams. This anti-climatic match had the Marauders stunned within minutes. Down 2-0 less than 20 minutes into the match, McMaster was forced to play catch up once again and come from behind for the second time in two matches.

Disaster struck and frustration finally hit its peak when Yunus Mollayev was sent off with a red card in the 27th minute. Down two goals, and now forced to play with 10 men, the game was all but over entering half time. McMaster had one last surge, directing seven shots on net throughout the course of the second half, unfortunately to no avail. Ryerson added another goal late in the match, solidifying their victory and the bronze medal.

All said and done, McMaster ended the season in fourth place, falling two spots from where they ended the regular season. Despite having a postseason to forget, there were many bright spots on this young McMaster team.

Five players were named to the OUA All-Star list, with two of those players being named to the First Team list. Striker Dusan Kovacevic and midfielder Yunus Mollayev were selected to the First Team, while Tony Li, Sasha Ricciuti and Jesse Di Domenico were added to the Second Team.

The future is bright for this young Marauders team despite finishing without a medal after a strong outing in the regular season. Although the team was unable to meet expectations, the bar has been set for the future and the possibilities are endless.

During a season of many highs and lows, the Marauders showed a great deal of camaraderie in their battle against the odds to win an OUA Championship. Morale must remain high and confidence should not waver, as the McMaster Marauders will continue to strive in the right direction before entering their new season.

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