Photo: Brent Smyth

Ryerson loses heartbreaker to York in OUA semifinal, fail to advance to nationals

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By Chris Sanders

Ryerson’s men’s soccer team lost to the York University Lions 2-1 in a penalty shootout in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinal Friday afternoon. The loss eliminates the Rams from championship contention, leaving them one win short of qualifying for this month’s national championship tournament.

The Rams will now have a chance to play for bronze at the OUA Final Four against McMaster, who lost to Carleton in the other semifinal matchup Friday night. It’s a disappointing reality, after the Rams were just seconds away from advancing before York tied the game and forced overtime.

“It’s as close as you can get to nationals. We were one minute away,” said Misel Klisara after their loss.”Both teams deserved to win. It could’ve gone either way. It sucks that [penalty kicks] decided it, At the end of the day, it was a coin toss.”

The blue and gold were able to taste victory against the best team in the OUA West after a goal from the Rams’ Raheem Rose in the 23rd minute put them up 1-0. They kept their lead through the second half, but when both teams were awarded six minutes of injury time, the Lions took advantage of their opportunity. York put on added pressure, repeatedly launching crosses and over-the-head through balls.

A final throw-in was the only thing separating the Rams from their second ever OUA finals appearance, and their first national tournament appearance since 2013.  But York kept on pressing.

An abundance of white York jerseys filled Ryerson’s box. The ball was thrown, giving the Lions a chance in front after a header found its way towards the net. A counter header sent the ball straight to another Lion, leading to a heroic tackle by Kyle Stewart. After a couple more headers, York’s Omar Marzouk tapped it over Rams goalie Praveen Ahilan for a heartbreaking injury time goal, equalling the score at 1-1.

Like Ryerson’s quarterfinal matchup against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues one week earlier, the game needed an extra 30 minutes to find a winner. Overtime solved nothing, so the match went to penalty kicks.

Rose stepped up first, but his shot was nothing more than a poor effort straight to Lions goalkeeper Quillan Roberts.

After eight shooters scored, York’s Dylan Carreiro had the chance to seal the win. A goal was all the Lions needed to take Ryerson’s chance from advancing, while securing their place in the OUA finals for the fifth straight year. Without any hesitation, Carreiro buried the game winner.

The outcome of Ryerson’s 2017 season still makes for a memorable story, since at one point it didn’t look like the Rams were even going to make the playoffs. In September, the team had to retroactively forfeit the first six games of their season, after fielding an academically ineligible player who has yet to be named. They lost their spot at the top of the OUA East, falling to eighth place with a record of 2-6-0.

The Rams responded by winning nine of their next 10 games, to go along with a tie, earning them a spot in the playoffs as the third seed in their division with a 9-6-1 record.

Heading into the semifinal matchup against the Lions, Ryerson knew it would be a tightly contested game. From 2013, the Lions have made the finals every year, winning three championships in four years. They’ll look to do the same tomorrow, as the Rams try to salvage a chapter of their Cinderella story the only way possible: by winning bronze.

Ryerson has lost three straight bronze OUA medal matches, all at the hands of the Varsity Blues, who they beat in the quarterfinals. But they should be confident after their strong play against York.

“I thought we played unbelievable, I thought we played excellent,” said Rams head coach Filip Prostran. “I’m extremely proud of the guys. We could’ve easily folded early in the year. I’m not only proud of today, but the whole season.”

Up Next: Ryerson will play for OUA bronze against the Marauders, who they have yet to go up against this year. The Rams will look to win their first bronze medal at York on Saturday Nov. 4 at 1 p.m.

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