(OTTAWA, ON) - (CIS) - The tournament host York Lions hope to accomplish a pair of program firsts this week at the CIS men’s soccer championship in Toronto: winning back-to-back national titles and hoisting the Sam Davidson Memorial Trophy on home turf.
The eight-team competition, hosted by the Lions for the first time since 1996 and the third time overall, runs from Thursday to Sunday at York Stadium with the gold-medal final set for 2 p.m. All 11 games will be webcast live on CIS-SIC.tv.
Joining the top-seeded and repeat OUA champion Lions in the 2015 draw are the second-rankedUNB Varsity Reds (AUS champions), No. 3 UQAM Citadins (RSEQ champs), No. 4 UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West champs), No. 5 Toronto Varsity Blues (OUA bronze medallists), No. 6 McMaster Marauders (OUA finalists), No. 7 Victoria Vikes (Canada West finalists) and No. 8 Cape Breton Capers (AUS finalists).
Thursday’s quarter-final matchups include McMaster vs. UQAM at 11 a.m., Victoria vs. UNB at 1:30 p.m., Toronto vs. UBC at 4 p.m., and Cape Breton vs. York at 7 p.m.
In addition to York, UBC (13), Victoria (5), UNB (1) and Toronto (1) have also hoisted the Sam Davidson Trophy in the past, while UQAM, McMaster and Cape Breton are still looking for that elusive first title.
York won its third CIS title in seven years last fall in Charlottetown thanks to impeccable defence, winning its three duels by identical 1-0 scores. It was more of the same this season for the defending champs, who allowed an OUA-low eight goals in 16 leagues games, including a single tally in their last seven contests. In the OUA championship match, the Lions won a hard-fought 2-1 battle against McMaster, the team they beat in last year’s national final.
“We believe we are only as good as our next game, so now that the conference playoffs are over we are focused only on the next roll of the ball,” said nine-year head coach Carmine Isacco. “I think this is the first time in a while where all the top teams in the country have qualified for the national tournament, and so to defend our title we are going to need special players to step up in the big moments. It’s going to be fantastic playing at home and showcasing the country’s best talent right here at York.”
Second-seeded UNB was another repeat champion this fall in the AUS, where the Varsity Reds battled all season with archrival Cape Breton. While the Capers came out on top by one point in league play, the V-Reds had the last laugh in the conference final with a 2-1 head-to-head win.
“The Varsity Reds are excited and honoured to represent the AUS at the CIS tournament for the fourth straight year,” said 13-year boss Miles Pinsent, whose troops hope to bounce back from a fifth-place finish at the 2014 CIS tourney. “We believe our past experiences will serve us well as we compete against the best in the country.”
It was the year of the repeat conference champions as No. 3 UQAM also successfully defended its title in Quebec, but not without surviving a major scare. With only one RSEQ team advancing to the nationals this year, it was winner-take-all in the league final and the Citadins somehow prevailed 3-2 in extra time over perennial powerhouse Montreal despite playing a man down from the 24th minute on.
“We had a superb season. We suffered our only loss on Oct. 30 on the final weekend of league play and it served as a wake-up call for the team,” said 19-year head coach Christophe Dutarte, who led his team to the top of the national rankings for the first time in program history this fall. “We open the CIS championship against McMaster and we’re hoping to avenge a heartbreaking loss on kicks to the Marauders in last year’s semifinals.”
The fourth conference champion, UBC, knows a thing or two about winning at the national championship. The Thunderbirds hold the all-time record with 13 Davidson Trophy titles – eight more than any other program – in 18 previous appearances at the tournament, including back-to-back triumphs in their last two participations in 2012 and 2013. The T-Birds’ all-time winning percentage at the competition is a ridiculous .883 (41-5-1).
“We are happy to be back again and in with a chance. It is always a difficult road out of Canada West to get here,” said 20-year sideline boss Mike Mosher, whose troops missed the national tournament last year but bounced back in a big way this fall to enter the championship as the only undefeated team in the country. “The road certainly doesn’t get any easier as most of the qualified teams are in the top two from their conference and thus this should be one of the most challenging CIS championship tournaments we have seen.”
Fifth-ranked Toronto kind of flew under the radar this year in the ultra-competitive OUA conference but ended up only one point behind first-place Ryerson in the East division standings with a solid 11-3-2 record. At the OUA Final Four, the Blues took reigning CIS champ York to double-overtime before conceding a 1-0 semifinal loss, but rebounded with an impressive 3-0 over Ryerson in the bronze-medal match to claim the final berth into this week’s tournament.
“We have a young, enthusiastic and hard-working group of players that are eager to be part of this competition,” said Anthony Capotosto, in his ninth campaign at the helm. “Over the course of the regular season we saw a significant improvement with our team and we are peaking at the right time. The CIS championship is always a special week and we look forward to representing our men’s soccer program and University in the best possible way both on and off the field.”
While they are still looking for their first Davidson Trophy victory, the sixth-seeded Marauders have been knocking on the door for a number of years and are about to make their fourth CIS championship appearance in five seasons. McMaster hit a rough patch late in the regular season with three losses in its last six games but rebounded nicely in the playoffs with three straight shutout wins before dropping a one-goal decision to York in the OUA final.
“We need to compete and believe in ourselves a little bit more. That’s the bottom line. We can play with York, but our players need to believe that a little more,” said eight-year mentor Dino Perri. “We do have a veteran core and a lot of important players who we would love to win this one for. It’s not a win or bust situation, but it’s a very good opportunity with seven fifth-year players.
“In the opening round, I expect the same thing from UQAM that we saw last year. They’re a very talented and athletic group of individuals and they’re going to give us everything that we can handle.”
Victoria returns to the national stage after a three-year absence, having made the most out of its last appearance in 2011 with a fifth conquest of the Davidson Trophy, that one on home turf. Standout midfielder Cam Hundal was named CIS championship MVP as a freshman four years ago, and the 2015 Canada West MVP would love nothing more than wrapping up his exceptional UVIC career with another title.
“We are looking forward to the national championship and we know that the teams from out east are going to be very strong,” said coaching legend Bruce Wilson, in his 28th season leading the Vikes. “Now, we really have to just think about things one game at a time. This is exactly where we wanted to be though, with a spot at nationals, and I am confident in the group that we have this year. This is also a testament to the contributions of our fifth-years Cam Hundal and Craig Gorman who were a big part of our success in 2011 as champions.”
Last but not least, the AUS finalist Cape Breton Capers are also led by one of the most prolific players in the country in striker Justin Maheu, the 2014 CIS player of the year who this fall captured his second straight scoring crown in the Atlantic with 13 goals in as many league games. The Capers return to the national tournament for the first-time since a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to UBC in their first-ever appearance in the CIS final, in 2012.
“We are confident, focused and excited to be back on the national stage after a short absence,” said second-year head coach Deano Morley, who served as an assistant with the Capers when they won CIS bronze in 2011 and silver in 2012. “We are looking forward to the first game and the challenge of competing at the highest level.”
Official championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/msoc/index
SAM DAVIDSON MEMORIAL TROPHY CHAMPIONS:
2014 York (at UPEI)
2013 UBC (at UNB)
2012 UBC (at Laval)
2011 Victoria (at Victoria)
2010 York (at Toronto)
2009 Laval (at Trinity Western)
2008 York (at Carleton)
2007 UBC (at UBC)
2006 Alberta (at Alberta)
2005 UBC (at UPEI)
2004 Victoria (at Montreal / McGill)
2003 Alberta (at Montreal / McGill)
2002 Brock (at Carleton)
2001 Laurier (at Saint Mary's)
2000 Laurier (at McMaster)
1999 Western (at Victoria)
1998 Western (at McGill)
1997 McGill (at Dalhousie)
1996 Victoria (at York)
1995 Dalhousie (at UQTR)
1994 UBC (at UBC)
1993 Sherbrooke (at Acadia)
1992 UBC (at Guelph)
1991 UBC (at Queen's)
1990 UBC (at Guelph)
1989 UBC (at UBC)
1988 Toronto (at UBC)
1987 Victoria (at McGill)
1986 UBC (at Toronto)
1985 UBC (at UBC)
1984 UBC (at Carleton)
1983 Laurentian (at Laurentian)
1982 McGill (at McGill)
1981 McGill (at Alberta)
1980 UNB (at UNB)
1979 Alberta (at Alberta)
1978 Manitoba (at Concordia)
1977 York (at Waterloo)
1976 Concordia (at Concordia)
1975 Victoria (at Victoria)
1974 UBC (at Concordia)
1973 Loyola (at Memorial)
1972 Alberta (at York)