Freemen fall short after incredible comeback
10/25 - The men’s soccer squad embarked on their quest for an MCAC Championship fourth-peat (more or less??) this past weekend. The weekend started with a semi-final match-up against St. Boniface in a #2-#3 game the Freemen were able to take with a 4-1 score. Providence then faced MCAC’s newcomers from the University of Winnnipeg in Sunday’s final, which, even after a late comeback attempt from the Freemen, saw the Wesmen take their first championship with a 6-4 score.
“I was nervous before the St. Boniface game,” Freemen coach Martin Ward said following the semi-final match-up. “They are an improved team from previous years. But I think once a team comes from behind a couple of times, they get that belief they can do it again, which helps.”
St. Boniface and Providence played an exciting back-and-forth game throughout the first half, but both defences stood strong to the other’s attack, and sides entered the half-time break tied at zero.
The Voyageurs then struck first in the second half, as they put away a corner kick quickly after the break. But rather than being a discouragement, the goal sprung the Freemen offense into high-gear. Freshman Norvin Campos put away two goals from atop the 18-yard box, and Andry Giesbrecht finished two of his own, off a free kick play and a misplayed St. Boniface pass that sent him on a break, and the Freemen finished the game in fashion by putting away the Voyageurs 4-1.
“I was pleased we were able to come back in the game,” coach Ward said. “Our conditioning is better than in previous years, and we seem to only get stronger as games go on.”
St. Boniface had a player sent off late in the second half, directly before the free kick play converted by Giesbrecht, for a high cleat to Freemen forward Miguel Fictoria below the neck.
The Freemen then faced the U of Winnipeg Wesmen on Saturday for the MCAC Championship. The powerful Wesmen squad was coming off an overwhelming 10-0 performance against CMU in their semi-final match.
Providence came out strong in the match, and surprised the Wesmen with their tactical approach, as they put out a strong offensive formation rather than the defensively-minded formations put out in previous matches. The Freemen actually outchanced the Wesmen for the first fifteen minutes. However, the game’s momentum took a huge twist around the 15th minute as the referee chose to award a penalty on an unintentional hand ball in the box, even though later in the half he would choose not to reciprocate the action on a more obvious hand ball in the Wesmen’s box.
“We came out strong in the first fifteen minutes and actually had more chances on goal than they did,” Coach Ward said of the game. “They got the penalty decision, which I felt was a little harsh on us, and it turned the game in their favor.”
And such is the beautiful game of soccer; a game of unlucky, or lucky, bounces.
The Wesmen would convert the penalty to go up one, and then began to attack with more momentum. The U of W squad would then add three more goals, two of which found their way in unfortunate fashions for the Freemen, while the other featured a fantastic hit by a Wesmen defender, and went into the half up 4-0.
U of W then put away their fifth of the game, as the Freemen defense made one of only a few errors on the day and failed to clear a corner well and allowed the skilled Wesmen squad an opportunity that was finished with prestige into the top right corner.
The sides then played great back-and-forth soccer until around the seventieth minute when junior defender Kaiten Critchlow headed home a corner kick that woke up the Freemen crowd and players, and began what would become one of the most exciting finishes to an MCAC Championship game in recent memory.
After the goal the Wesmen quickly responded with a goal that found its way into the back of the Freemen’s net to put themselves up 6-1. However, the Freemen continued to attack, and sophomore Brendan Wiens put away a rebound and brought the Freemen within two. ‘Fancy-feet’ Fictoria then sent a through ball that Giesbrecht sprinted to run onto. But the Wesmen’s keeper collided with Giesbrecht within the 18-yard box to earn himself a red card and give the Freemen a penalty kick opportunity.
Giesbrecht put away the penalty kick to lessen the gap to 6-3. Giesbrecht would then put one more away, to earn his fourth of the weekend, and to bring the scoreline within two. But the clock would run out shortly following the goal to bring an end to the Freemen’s remarkable comeback try, and to clinch a well-deserved 6-4 Championship victory for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen.
Despite the loss, Providence coach Ward left the game pleased with the way his squad played against the juggernaut Wesmen squad looking for acceptance into CIS competition.
“Our game plan was to stop their two main scorers from scoring, and we did that effectively (neither registered a goal),” coach Ward commented. “Unfortunately for us, the University of Winnipeg scored some very good goals from distance.”
“I think going 4-0 down, and then down 6-1; to come back and score three goals to make it a very exciting finish to the game showed the character of our team. They are a high quality team, and for us to put a scare into them at the end of the game was a lot of fun.”
The Freemen next return to action this weekend when they travel to Iowa to play their NCCAA Div. II Regionals, which they must win to advance to the National Tournament. After earning a berth into the Regional finals, the squad will face the winner of the NCU/Faith semi-final on Saturday afternoon.
Notes: U of Winnipeg scorers - Scott Ansell (2), Lamin Colly, Adam Bromley, Paul Thompson, Karius Lima... Freshman keeper Kyle Perry was named player of the game on Saturday, while Critchlow earned the honor in Sunday’s final for the Freemen...the Wesmen’s Adam Bromley earned the Tournament MVP award.
Written By: Kaiten Critchlow
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