By Colin Orsak
The Carleton Ravens returned from the U Sports men’s soccer championships without a medal, forcing the team’s players to adopt a forward-looking mindsight.
The Ravens advanced to the national championships by winning the provincial title for the third consecutive year and advanced to the U Sports semifinals for the second year in a row. Last year Carleton came home from nationals with a bronze medal.
After a dominant regular season in which they recorded a record of 13-1 and won the top seed in Ontario’s east division, the Ravens lost 1-0 in overtime against the UQTR Patriotes – the eventual U Sports champions – in the national semifinals.
The Ravens controlled the pace from the onset, outshooting and dominating UQTR, but were met by a Patriotes’ defense and goaltending that did enough to keep the game tied.
In the eighty-eighth minute, Carleton was subjected to a controversial red card forcing the team to play a man down for the entire 30 minutes of extra time. UQTR scored in the opening minutes of extra time to make it 1-0, which would hold out as the final score.
UQTR beat the defending champions and host Montreal Carabins in the finals, while Carleton lost the bronze medal game to the Cape Breton Capers.
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Ravens midfielder Ricky Comba said he was proud of his team for making it as far as they did, but that the final outcome left a little to be desired.
“You can’t get much worse of a feeling. It’s tough when you give your everything throughout the season and then for you to not get over the line, it’s tough,” said Comba.
Comba, an Ottawa native, finished second on the team in goals as well as shots on net during the regular season.
“I think we gave it everything. We were smarter, fitter, and we have a better understanding of our identity,” he said.
It is the Ravens’ identity that truly makes the team special.
While most other Canadian universities pull from talent outside of their home city, Carleton is one of the few teams with an almost complete roster of local players. For the Ravens, this puts an extra level of importance on the concept of the team as a collective. The idea is something embraced by Ravens coach Kwesi Loney.
“We truly are a representation of Ottawa and I feel we need to celebrate that,” Loney said, adding that the Ravens’ success over the last two years is an indicator of the soccer talent being pumped out of the city.
“We wouldn’t have the success that we have if the clubs weren’t producing the way they are producing … I’m very grateful for what high schools and community clubs are doing. This is a representation of them,” Loney said.
Emad Houache, Ravens co-captain and fellow Ottawa native, said representing the city is “very special” to the team. He thinks next year’s U Sports championships, which Ottawa will play host to, will be an opportunity for his team and for the city to shine.
The Ravens automatically get a spot in the championships next year as the host team, no matter the result of their regular season. Despite this, Houache thinks knowing they’ll have to host the championships at the end of the year will only add to the difficulty of next season.
“Hosting will add a tremendous amount of pressure,” Houache said.
Following the abrupt stoppage of operations of Ottawa Fury FC this fall, Loney is hopeful the city will rally around the Ravens next year. He believes that the support of family, friends, alumni and the community as a whole may be the perfect force needed for this team to capitalize on their success.
“I feel like, for our nationals competition, I’d love to see our local soccer clubs and schools get behind it. Our team is a representation of the players (they’ve) developed.
We’re able to put Ottawa on a stage,” Loney said.
Comba’s bought into this notion as well.
“I think we are always trying to make a statement that we have good quality football too. We are just as good here as anywhere else in Canada,” Comba said.
Gee-Gee World Beaters
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees achieved a historic feat to end their season by becoming the inaugural KELME FISU University World Cup women’s champions.
The Gee-Gees were chosen as a wild-card entrant and representative of Canada and U Sports in the eight-team women’s tournament because they had won last year’s national championship. They were knocked out of university playoff play in Canada in the OUA semifinals this year, before winning the arguably more-impressive prize at the tournament held in November in Jinjiang, China.
The Gee-Gees beat the favoured Paulista University (from Brazil) 1-0 in the championship’s finals. Mikayla Morton, the OUA east division MVP, scored the lone goal in the game, while Margot Shore recorded the shutout for the Gee-Gees.