Winning streaks on the line in soccer showdown

More than a provincial title will be on the line when Redeemer University College in Ancaster hosts the 2012 Ontario Colleges Athletic Association Men’s Soccer Championship, beginning Friday.

While the winner automatically qualifies for nationals, the OCAA has been granted an additional wild card entry, meaning there will be more than a silver medal for the runner-up this season. This makes the OCAA semifinals even more critical as four teams are one win away from playing for a Canadian title in November.

Three of last year’s semi-finalists are headed to Redeemer, along with Seneca which is no stranger to advancing past the round of eight. The Sting have advanced to the OCAA semis in four of the past five seasons. Seneca faces OCAA West champion St. Clair in one semifinal. The Saints came away from the tournament empty-handed last season.

In the other semifinal, two-time defending champion Humber renews acquaintances with division rival Sheridan. Both teams have met in the OCAA gold medal match the past two seasons, with Humber earning one-goal victories.

All the games take place on the north field of Redeemer’s Sports Complex.

“We are excited to welcome the top players and teams in the province to Ancaster,” said Redeemer’s athletic director, Dave Mantel. “We look forward to building on the successful hosting of other recent Provincial Championships.”

Redeemer’s soccer development coordinator, Caell Huyer, said hosting the championship is a great opportunity and exciting for Hamilton and the surrounding area.

“We have the ability to invite people in to catch a glimpse of some of the top soccer in the province. We have a great facility here at Redeemer and we look forward to sharing it with the community and making this a really fantastic event.”

The four teams competing for the championship are the St. Clair Saints (Windsor), Sheridan Bruins (Oakville), Humber Hawks (Etobicoke), and the Seneca Sting (Markham).

The championships will open with an awards banquet on Thursday night at the Courtyard Marriott in Hamilton.

Seneca (6-1-2, 2nd East) vs. St. Clair (7-1-1, 1st West)
Friday, Oct. 26 – Noon.

Two teams with eight-game unbeaten streaks clash in the first semifinal. St. Clair got off to a slow start in September, allowing five goals in two of its first three games, but then righted the ship defensively, winning six in a row. The Saints have not allowed more than two goals in a game since. St. Clair’s most recent game was a 3-0 quarter-final victory against Durham.

Offensively, St. Clair fourth-year forward Brian Santos (Leamington) and first-year teammate Gabriel Poulino (Windsor) combined for 15 goals during the regular season, making them the most lethal offensive combination in the league. Santos also scored against Durham.

Similar to St. Clair, Seneca lost its regular season opener. Unlike the Saints, Seneca never allowed more than two goals in a game during the regular season, but survived a quarter-final scare when it required penalty kicks to defeat Mohawk, 4-3.

Seneca had a couple of first-year players share the team lead in goals during the regular season. Malven Francis (Pickering) and Casey Marksman (Toronto) scored three goals each. Francis added another against Mohawk.

St. Clair and Seneca play in opposite divisions, making this the first meeting between the teams since the 2008 OCAA bronze medal match. The only common opponent each team had in 2012 is Durham, which Seneca tied 2-2 in its regular season finale.

Seneca last won the OCAA championship in 2003, but won the national title in 2009. St. Clair has never won the OCAA championship, with silver being its best result back in 2000.

The winner will earn at least an OCAA silver medal, and advance to nationals. The losing team plays for bronze.

Sheridan (6-2-2, 5th West) vs. Humber (7-2-0, 2nd West)
Friday, Oct. 26 – 2:30 p.m.

Sheridan and Humber have met in the OCAA championship the past two seasons, with Humber having the upper hand in both meetings. There is still plenty at stake this time around.

Humber lost two regular season matches for the first time since 2008. Fittingly, Sheridan was one of those defeats, with the Bruins winning 1-0 on the strength of a Kelechi Ebuta (Scarborough) goal. Ebuta and fifth-year player Johnathan Costa (Mississauga) led Sheridan with five goals each during the regular season.

First-year winger Marcos Nunes (Brampton) and third-year midfielder Matthew Rios (Toronto) led Humber in regular season goals, both scoring three times. Humber has won four of its last five matches, including a 4-0 quarter-final win over Fleming. Nunes scored twice in the victory.

Sheridan had a longer road to the semifinals, going winless in four of its first five games. With their post-season aspirations hanging in the balance, the Bruins have now won five straight, including a 3-2 win at Conestoga during the qualifying round, and a 1-0 win over OCAA East champion Algonquin in the quarter-finals.

The Bruins were one of the top offensive producers during the regular season, scoring 23 goals. Humber gave up a league-low four goals, setting up the classic offensive versus defensive confrontation.

This is the 20th anniversary of Sheridan’s last OCAA men’s soccer title. As is the case in the first semifinal, the winner earns at least an OCAA silver medal, and advances to nationals. The losing team plays for bronze.

To follow the Championships, visit: which will also stream live coverage of the games.