Monday, 14 November 2011

CIS Championships - Finals

Sunday the thirteenth of November will be a day that a number of university athletes will long remember. Four teams played in the CIS Championship Final soccer games, games that would determine the university level champion of Canada in both men's and women's soccer. These games would also produce second place finishers.

The matchups for the 2011 edition of the Championships featured the host Victoria Vikes against the upstart Saint Mary's Huskies on the men's side and the defending champion Queen's Gaels up against the Montreal Carabins, looking for the first championship won by a Quebec team on the women's side.

Between the two games were featured a record-setting crowd, penalty drama, amazing defensive play, and some stunning goals. Who would lift the Gladys Bean Memorial Trophy for the women and the Sam Davidson Memorial Trophy for the men?

c/o Snitch from the Pitch
The first final to kick off took place at the Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal at McGill University between the Queen's Gaels and the Montreal Carabins. Coming into the game, the Gaels were the defending champions, OUA Champions, and fourth ranked Canada-wide while the Carabins were the top-ranked team in Canada, undefeated, and the RSEQ Champions.

To get to the final, Queen's had defeated the Alberta Pandas in their opening game by a 2-1 score, then defeated the Ottawa Gee-Gees in kicks from the mark after a scoreless draw in the semi-final. Montreal had won their opener against the Laurier Golden Hawks in penalties after a 1-1 draw and then come back in extra time to defeat the host McGill Martlets by 2-1 scoreline.

Queen's wore their red uniforms for the match while Montreal donned their blues. Both teams played a very defensive game, constantly pushing the strikers for the other team out to the wings. Montreal's Éva Thouvenot-Hébert, top goal scorer in the country, and Jacqueline Tessier, top goal scorer in Ontario, were both limited in their chances with their best chances coming when Thouvenot-Hébert missed wide early and Tessier hit the crossbar late in the second half. The best goal scoring opportunity came when Gaels striker Breanna Burton was pulled down in the penalty area with moments left in the first half. Defender Mikyla Kay stepped up to take it up Martine Julien made an excellent diving stop to keep the score 0-0.

The second half was much of the same with both teams playing very tight defensive games and neither team getting many chances and the regulation ninety minutes finished 0-0. The official tally of shots was also tied with each team tallying ten. Carabins' goalkeeper Julien had to make five saves to Chantel Marson's three. Extra time was a bit different as the Carabins had more of the play and outshot Queen's by a 7-2 margin. They could not make any of their chances count and made several substitutions at the end of extra time to get their penalty takers on.

Montreal was up first and Maryise Monchalin took her shot but a flailing hand by Marson blocked the ball and gave Queen's the immediate advantage. OUA East MVP Riley Filion stepped up and put the ball just out of reach of Julien to give Queen's a 1-0 lead. Emmanuelle Béliveau-Labrecque stepped up for the second and hit it poorly. Marson was able to guess right and made an easy save to keep Montreal off the scoreboard. Kay was the second Queen's shooter and redeemed herself for her earlier penalty miss, burying the ball in the corner of the net, just beyond Julien's outstretched hands. The third Montreal shooter was the first to tally a goal as Chloe Bouclin-Sabourin rolled the ball to the bottom right corner, freezing Marson in goal and bringing the scoreline to 2-1 in favour of Queen's. Co-Captain Kelli Chamberlain stepped up and put the ball into the roof of the net, well out of reach of Julien to give Queen's the 3-1 lead. Marson ensured that the game would not continue by making a third stop, this time on Claudiane Tremblay, giving Queen's the 2011 CIS Women's Soccer Championship, their third, in front of just over 550 spectators. This team also became the first Queen's varsity team to repeat as CIS Champions in the school's history, and the fourth to repeat at the women's championships after Dalhousie (1999, 2000), UBC (2002, 2003), and Trinity Wester (2008, 2009).

After the game the tournament All-Star team was named. It featured four players from both the Carabins and Gaels, two from the Ottawa Gee-Gees, and one from McGill. Fifth year Chantel Marson was named as the goalkeeper and also received the Gunn Baldersson memorial award as tournament MVP for her efforts in both the semi-final and final shootouts. On defense Julia Bahen (McGill), Gillian Baggot (Ottawa), Valérie Labelle (Montreal), Brienna Shaw (Queen's) were named. Véronique Maranda, Emmanuelle Béliveau-Labrecque (both Montreal), and Riley Filion (Queen's) were named as midfielders, while Pilar Khoury (Ottawa), Jacqueline Tessier (Queen's) and Eva Thouvenot-Hébert (Montreal) were named as the strikers. The Alberta Pandas were given the R.W. Pugh Fair Play award for the tournament.

Out in Victoria, British Columbia, the host Victoria Vikes faced off against the Saint Mary's Huskies in front of more than 3000 spectators. Victoria played in front of their home crowd winning their quarter-final match against Montreal in penalties after coming from behind twice in the game, once in the first half and then again in extra time. Their semi-final was equally close against the Cape Breton Capers, with a late goal winning it for the Vikes as they were pegged back from a 2-0 lead. The Huskies had an "easier" route to the final, downing McGill 2-1 in the quarter-final before defeating Alberta in the semi-final 2-0, with both goals coming in extra time.

This game would not see extra time as Victoria dominated the run of play with the Canada West Rookie of the Year Cam Hundal helping the Vikes run roughshod over the Huskies. Victoria scored the opening goal late in the first half when Wesley Barrett flew past two defenders and curled the ball into the top left corner from close to thirty yards out, giving the Vikes the 1-0 at halftime. Eight minutes into the second half, Hundal scored his first goal of the game as Jordie Oberg's header came to his chest and he volleyed the ball in an arc overtop of Huskies goalkeeper Adam Miller to give the Vikes a 2-0 lead, one that proved insurmountable.

Thirteen minutes later, Huskies striker Elvir Gigolaj redirected a ball from a corner into the back of the net to cut the lead to 2-1, but it wasn't enough as Hundal scored an insurance goal in the 77th minute to end the Huskies' hopes. Craig Gorman made some excellent moves to get to the endline, spinning around one defender, dummying the second, and then outmuscling a third to fire a cross in from the goal line and Hundal ran in from outside the penalty area, beating his defender to the ball and putting the ball into the net to make it 3-1.

With the win, Victoria claimed their fifth CIS Men's Soccer Championship and consigned the Saint Mary's Huskies to their fifth loss in five finals. Cam Hundal was named the tournament's MVP and joined midfielders Andrew Rigby (Cape Breton) and Derek Gaudet (Saint Mary's) on the All-Star team. Also named were goalkeeper Adam Miller (Saint Mary's), defenders Tyler Hutchins (Alberta), Gavin Barrent and Andrew Ravenhill (Victoria), and Sandro Rajkovic (Cape Breton). The strikers named were Elvis Gigolaj (Saint Mary's), Jordie Oberg (Victoria), and Ian Greedy (Cape Breton). The R.W. Pugh Fair Play award was claimed by the McGill Redmen.

The 2012 women's CIS Championship will also be played in Victoria, while the men's will be hosted by the Laval Rouge et Or in Quebec.

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