So far this season, the Varsity Blues men’s soccer team has failed to taste victory at Varsity Stadium — until now. On Saturday, October 1, the Varsity Blues beat the Queen’s Golden Gaels 3–0 to get their first win at home and their third win of the season.
“We have a very young team,” Coach Ilya Orlov explained in a post-game interview with The Varsity. “It’s about development and about improvement [in] every game [and] the results will come if there is improvement.”
The Gaels dominated in the first half, forcing two saves from Varsity Blues goalkeeper Ben Grondin within the first 10 minutes. The closest opportunity of the half came when Gaels’ defender Ian Ferguson struck the right post after receiving a dangerous cross from midfielder Andrea Gortana.
While neither side broke the deadlock, the Gaels forced seven saves from Grondin in the first half. Comparatively, the Blues only had three shots on goal.
The Gaels’ dominance continued as the second half kicked off, but the momentum shifted.
“I think we were… letting them come to us a bit in the first half,” Grondin explained in a post-game interview. “I think, [in the] second half, when we trusted our ability and we were able to get forward… we showed that we were the better side.”
Early in the second half, two substitutes came on for the Blues — midfielder Alex Boue and striker Kingsley Belele — who both had an immediate impact on the game.
After a great pass from midfielder Shon Siegelwachs, Boue crossed the ball to Eugene Chiapetta, who volleyed in the Blues’ first goal from close range.
The Gaels applied pressure, but the Blues’ strong defense ensured that Toronto maintained their one-goal lead. After receiving a chipped pass from his fellow striker, Artem Tesker, Belele broke through the Gaels’ defensive line and extended the lead for the Varsity Blues.
“Substitutes are impact players who have to make a difference,” Orlov said about the vital substitutions. “Today, they made a difference.”
In the final minutes of the game, Siegelwachs dispossessed Gaels substitute Lucas Booth and skipped past two defenders before sending a shot into the bottom left corner to finish the game.
At the other end of the pitch, four late saves from Grondin ensured that the Blues maintained the clean sheet. Grondin finished the game with 12 saves, taking his total saves tally for the season up to 44. As a result, Grondin is now the joint leader in total saves in Ontario University Athletics.
“Ben is [the] top goalkeeper in Ontario [and] possibly [the] top goalkeeper in the country,” Orlov commented. “We still always have a chance of saving the ball because he is in the goal.”
Meanwhile, Grondin praised his team’s defensive effort. “We really kept [the Gaels’ offense] limited,” Grondin explained. “When they were crossing it in, we were able to either get [the ball] away or… into my hands.”
With five games left before the playoffs, victory against the Gaels means that the Blues are now tied for third with 12 points.
“[When you’re] halfway through the season, you got to be able to put the ball in the net,” Grondin said when discussing the impact of their win. “I think our guys proved today that we can do that.”