On a bright sunny afternoon last Wednesday, the Varsity Centre hosted a men’s soccer game between the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks.
Following a tie against Nipissing University on August 31, the Blues took to the field to demonstrate their revamped lineup. The game marked the first faceoff between the two teams in the regular season.
The first half began with an exceptional performance by the Blues’ second-year midfielder Lukas McNaughton, who advanced past Ridgebacks goalkeeper Travis Martin and scored a goal in the 14th minute off what was originally a free kick by fifth-year striker Kilian Elkinsan (also Ontario University Athletics’ male athlete of the week).
Elkinson scored a second goal in the 17th minute on a pass from Russell Rodriguez and struck diagonally from the far right side of the goalpost to the far left side of the net, strengthening the Blues’ advantage.
A foul by Ridgebacks in the 38th minute lead to a free kick for the Blues, giving Elkinson another opportunity to score, but his kick bounced off the goalpost.
The Blues’ defenders did a remarkable job preventing possible rival goals, like the corner shot from the Ridgebacks in the 38th minute.
Elkinson’s third goal three minutes before the end of first half, once again after receiving a pass from Rodriguez, brought the Varsity Blues even closer to victory. The Blues led by 3-0 at the half, while the shaky Ridgebacks—who were mostly first-year students—had lost all confidence.
In the 64th minute, the Blues’ morale was boosted once again when second-year midfielder Nikolay Saveliev, after receiving a pass from Elkinson, took advantage of Martin’s distance from the net and ran past him to score on a clear goal. The Blues led by 4-0, and their victory was imminent.
Meanwhile, the Ridgebacks’ head coach kept substituting players in an attempt to avert an embarrassing fall to the Blues.
Finally, in the 77th minute, the dispirited Ridgebacks were encouraged when their first-year striker Lee-Victor Massunda dodged a Blues defender to sink the ball into the net, but it didn’t do much to negate the Blues’ lead.
All the shots by the Ridgebacks were either too far from the goalpost, exceptionally defended, or saved by the Blues’ goalkeeper, Rab Bruce-Lockhart. Bruce-Lockhart made three saves, whereas Martin made none.
The final goal of the game was also Elkinson’s third goal of the season; he shot the ball straight into the net, and Martin failed to save it.
When asked about his team’s performance, the Ridgebacks’ head coach, Vaso Vujanovic, said he felt terrible about his team. “We didn’t play good as a team. We have too many young players; around 16 of them are first-years and they are not working together,” he said. “We are on the stage where we are building a team. We made a lot of beginning mistakes and allowed chances for them. In the previous match [against Carleton University] we played a lot better and the team we played against was not as strong as U of T. That day the players were functioning a lot better than today.“
However, Vujanovic was optimistic about the rest of the season. “We’ll be better by half-season,” he said. “We will be studying the game in class and who did what mistakes and analyze it.”
Anthony Capotosto, the Blues’ head coach, was very satisfied with his team’s achievements. “I think we’re starting to learn the qualities of some of our players now, and especially the first-year players,” he said. “The majority of them played today and their qualities are starting to come out because we are starting to put the chemistry together.”
Capotosto, who is the Blues’ head coach for the eighth season in a row, appreciated his goalkeeper in particular. “We’re getting consistent performance from our goalkeeper Rab, and that’s the best thing you can ask for,” he said. “My opinion is that he is one of the best goalkeepers in the CIS.”
One of the strongest players on the Blues, Kilian Elkinson was happy but humble about his performance. “Personally, I played quite well, but you have to credit the team. The team gave me the ball in great areas and overall it has been a great attacking plot,” he commented. “But it’s unfortunate that we did not keep a clean sheet. We really need to make sure we keep a clean sheet and we need to cut out the errors.”
The Varsity Blues also played Carleton on Sunday, and will play Ryerson on September 14 at 2:15 p.m. at the Varsity Centre.