(VAUGHAN, ON) For the first time since 1980, the UNB Varsity Reds will play for a CIS men’s soccer championship.
The VReds scored a 3-2 win over the University of Quebec at Montreal Citadins, in the national university semi-finals on Saturday.
This is UNB’s fourth consecutive appearance in the CIS championship tournament, but the first time in more than three decades that the Reds have advanced to the gold medal game. UNB won gold, on home field, back in 1980.
In what is quickly becoming their trademark, the Varsity Reds rallied to beat the Citadins, after surrendering the first two goals of the game.
Simon-Pierre Cote-Ko and Andre Gregory Bona scored 16 minutes apart, in the first half, to give UQAM what seemed like an insurmountable lead.
But, just three minutes after Bona’s goal, Oliver Jones scored to give UNB new life.
Then, on a free kick, with the first half winding down, Diego Padilha found the back of the net to tie the game.
The second half saw both teams trade strong chances, but no more goals.
Varsity Reds keeper Brandon Eagle made at least four big saves, including two in rapid succession from close range.
“One of those games, I guess,” said an elated Eagle afterward.
The fifth year keeper was almost speechless following the win. “I’m over the moon. We set this goal[winning a CIS title] at the beginning of the year and… sorry, I’m just speechless, right now.”
Deadlocked 2-2 through full time, the Reds and Citadins played two 15 minute overtime halves.
In the 100th minute, Oliver Jones got his head on a free kick in the Citadins box, passing it to a leaping Robbie Park, who headed it home.
“I’d say it’s probably the most important goal of the season,” said Park, who led UNB with nine goals during the regular season.
“I saw him[Jones] head it across the goal and I gambled… I closed my eyes and I hit it,” said Park, who was playing in front of his father and grandfather, here from their home in Scotland.
“It feels fantastic that we’re taking this next step,” said UNB head coach Miles Pinsent. “It took a heck of an effort from the eleven guys on the field to do it, but we prevailed in the end.”
Since winning in 1980, the Varsity Reds have seen little success at the CIS tournament. They won a bronze medal, on home turf, in 2013, but this will be the first shot at gold for the current players.
“We’ve wanted this for so long,” said fourth year fullback George Lawton. “The job’s not done. There’s still a game tomorrow[Sunday] and we’re gonna go get it, we’ve said that from minute one.”
The Varsity Reds will face the No. 1 seed and host York University Lions in Sunday’s final. The Lions beat the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in a shootout, in the second semi-final.
The gold medal game is scheduled to kick-off at 2:00PM Eastern/3:00PM Atlantic.