By Daniel Carrero
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s soccer team won 3-0 against the Nipissing Lakers in the first round of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs at Downsview Park on Wednesday evening.
TMU ended the season finishing third place in the OUA East division, with eight wins, three losses and one draw, while Nipissing finished sixth in the standings. Earlier in the season, TMU won 8-0 against Nipissing, making them the favourites heading into the match.
“No playoff game is straightforward, you look at where we are in the standings and you think we’ll cruise through it,” said head coach Filip Prostran.
TMU came out with a solid 4-3-3 formation characterized by having fourth-year midfielder, Chris Campoli roaming. This made TMU attack with a 4-2-4 formation when in possession.
As the clock ticked in the first half, TMU applied pressure up front that forced Nipissing to get tighter in defence. Nipissing ended up having one shot on target throughout the first half.
In the 43rd minute, TMU had a free kick on the edge of the box taken by third-year defender Colin Gander who hit the crossbar. Both sides were locked at zero at the end of the first half.
Starting the second half, Nipissing came out with a different style as they sent more players forward. At the same time, it allowed TMU to cycle the ball into Nipissing’s side of the pitch.
“It’s tough to play a team that sits in the back, the plan was to be really patient and cycle the ball quickly to overload the wide areas,” said Prostran. “We had some success in the first half, but ultimately in the second half we got it done.”
The inevitable goal was coming for the Bold. A cross from fifth-year defender Kai Martin eventually found Campoli, who shot it into the left corner to give the home side the one-goal lead.
“We knew the goal was coming, it was all about staying calm and composed and playing our style of game,” said Campoli.
As a result of Nipissing’s deficit, they were forced to put more pressure on the Bold. However, by doing so, the Lakers created a gap between their defence and midfield, allowing TMU to capitalize on their mistakes.
In the 86th minute, third-year midfielder Jaylen Drummond managed to find that gap and released a low-driven shot that surprised Nipissing fifth-year goalkeeper Ryan Miners.
We knew they wanted to sit down to counter-attack, so once they pushed forward, they gave us more space to break them down,” said Martin.
Tension was growing between both teams as the Lakers were on the brink of elimination. The Bold closed the game with another strike from second-year midfielder, Bilal Reslan. The Toronto product caught Miners by surprise and his right hand wasn’t enough to stop the powerful shot.
As the final whistle blew, the Lakers’ fate was sealed and TMU advanced to the second round of the OUA playoffs.
TMU will face Ontario Tech in an intense away game in the quarterfinals. The matchup carries history as Campoli played four years with Ontario Tech and won multiple awards while with them. Nevertheless, the former U Sports National Player of the Year is clear about his mission with TMU.
“There are emotions, it is part of the game. [Ontario Tech] made me the player I am today,” said Campoli. “Once the whistle blows, there are no friends anymore and I see everybody as an enemy.”
UP NEXT: The Bold will play in the quarterfinals of the OUA playoffs against Ontario Tech on Oct. 28 at Vaso’s Field in Oshawa, Ont. at 3:15 p.m.