The UTM Eagles men’s and women’s indoor soccer teams travelled to the Ontario Soccer Centre on March 3 to contend for a spot in the OCAA Indoor Soccer Provincial Championships.
Both the men and the women qualified for the regional tournament after a fantastic showing at a Sheridan invitational. Both teams failed to qualify for the provincial championships, but they performed admirably and set up a good foundation for the future of the UTM varsity soccer program.
The Eagles were seeded into pool B. Each pool had five teams, with the top two teams advancing. Centennial, St. Chair, St Lawrence-Brockville, and Sault College were drawn against the UTM men, while the women had to play Conestoga, St. Clair, and St. Lawrence-Brockville. The Eagles were up against some very tough competition, and qualifying for the provincial championships was going to be a challenge.
The men started strong, with a 1-0 win against Sault. It was followed up by a 0-0 draw against Centennial and a 3-0 loss versus St. Clair. The men finished the tournament with a very strong showing against St. Lawrence-Brockville, dominating the match and winning 4-0, but unfortunately, it was not enough to advance. St. Clair and Centennial advanced to the OCAA Championship.
The women started off with a very hard-fought 2-2 draw against Sault and a narrow 2-1 defeat against St. Clair. They were able to bounce back with a strong 3-0 showing against St Lawrence-Brockville, but unfortunately, a final 1-0 defeat against Conestoga meant that they too were unable to qualify for provincials.
Overall, as a young program, the Eagles performed very well. They were able to play and fight against strong established programs with long histories of success while displaying confidence on the field. They had what should definitely be considered a very successful season—especially the men’s team, which defeated the overwhelming favourite, Sheridan, to win UTM’s first trophy in soccer earlier this season.
The UTM women’s coach Damian Yearwood believes that the Eagles were extremely competitive at the regional level and only narrowly missed out on advancing. The men failed to qualify on goal difference, and the women would have qualified if they had been able to score a single extra goal.
As for the future of the program and outdoor soccer, Yearwood is “looking forward to the challenge” but admits that transitioning to a full 90-minute outdoor game would be tough for them, especially since the Eagles have been placed in the “group of death” with traditional powerhouses like Humber, Seneca, and Sheridan.
There is a positive attitude in the locker room, though, and both teams are looking forward to next season. As for what the team needs to improve on for next season, women’s striker Katerina Savin mentioned that cardio and match fitness were a concern.
They would often “get gassed from running so much”. Rebecca Victoratto agrees that fitness is a challenge for UTM, adding that as a new team, the Eagles were relatively underprepared for the unique challenges of indoor soccer, such as the artificial grass and the fast-paced tactics.
Veteran striker Sheri Veibl says UTM performed very well and had a good first season at this much higher level. “We were able to make some noise this season and give teams that have been playing together for years a run for their money,” she pointed out. Defender Kojo Awuah shares similar sentiments for the men’s team.
Despite failing to qualify for provincials, the Eagles performed very well for a first-year team at the varsity level, and with this current pool of talented players, the Eagles are well-prepared for the next season and beyond in both indoor and outdoor soccer.