Angelo Cavalluzzo on engineering the unexpected

Varsity Blues women’s soccer associate head coach discusses historic season, defying expectations, and the future of the game

Angelo Cavalluzzo on engineering the unexpected

It took two draws from two games on week two of the season for Angelo Cavalluzzo to realize that he had something special on his hands.

At first glance, the fact that the Varsity Blues women’s soccer team earned two points out of a possible six hardly seems worthy of excitement. Added to their return of three points from their first two games of the season the week prior, one would be forgiven for mulling over how Cavalluzzo, the associate head coach, could judge one win in four as evidence that something special was brewing. In fact, if you were to crunch the numbers, you would find that the team’s five-point haul from the opening four games was actually their worst start to a season since 2013.

Crunch the numbers a little further, however, and you’d realize that these two points are an exceptional exception to the norm. The draws, both at home, came against reigning national champions the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and the powerhouse Queen’s University Gaels on September 7 and 8, respectively. Before that, the Blues had lost their previous four games against the Gee-Gees, with an aggregate score of 7–1. Their record against the Gaels was even worse, having lost all of their previous eight encounters, dating back to 2015 — including one in the week prior — with an aggregate 23–5 score.

Facing off against the Gee-Gees, the Blues conceded first, and all signs seemed to point to an impending implosion. However, Cavalluzzo made tactical tweaks that were instrumental in helping midfielder Miranda Badovinac to score the equalizer just eight minutes later. Aided by a superb performance from goalkeeper Vanna Staggolis, the Blues saw the game through to a 1–1 draw.

Against the Gaels the following day, the Blues conceded first once more. And then they conceded again. No problem for Cavalluzzo and his Blues team though, who clawed their way back, courtesy of a spirited performance and two more goals from Badovinac.

“Once that happened that weekend, I said, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a chance against anybody,’” Cavalluzzo says. “Knowing [that the players] can do that in single games… Yeah, we can go on and do this again.”

And they certainly did.

Making history

Under Cavalluzzo’s management, the women’s soccer team reached the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Final Four for the first time since 2004, earned a silver medal in the OUA for the first time since 1990, reached the national U SPORTS level for the first time since 2013, and recorded their best-ever U SPORTS season, with a third-place finish in Victoria, British Columbia.

The Blues produced thrilling soccer throughout, making effective use of the wide areas through Badovinac on the right and Jenny Wolever on the left. Centre-forward Erin Kelly provided strong hold-up play and pressing as the Blues looked to defend on the front foot when they lost the ball. In the centre of the pitch, Captain Maddie MacKay regularly acted as a conduit between the defenders and forwards. In goal, Staggolis was an immovable barrier to opposition attacks, regularly pulling off vital saves.

The season confounded all expectations — even those that Cavalluzzo’s coaching staff and the players had initially set. The former had targeted an OUA quarterfinal place, which would entail the tall order of a top-two OUA East regular season finish in order to secure a bye, or finishing between third and sixth and winning the extra knockout OUA playoff game. Furthermore, the players had set the loftier target of reaching the OUA final four, which would require the added step of actually winning the quarterfinal.

“We did both,” he says. “And then we exceeded both.”

What makes the achievement even more impressive is that the Blues had lost their graduated star players Chelsea Cheung and Natasha Klasios prior to the start of the season. The team’s two top scorers in 2018, Cheung had scored seven goals in 16 games, while Klasios had netted six in 17.

Fortunately, they recruited wisely. The Blues added Badovinac from the University at Albany Great Danes, as well as the three-time OUA all-star and then-reigning OUA East player of the year, Wolever from the Queen’s Gaels. Cavalluzzo credits the experience both of them brought to the team as a boon to the Blues’ ultimate unprecedented success. Badovinac and Wolever both played 21 games in the season, scoring 13 and nine goals respectively.

He recounts the season’s story from the Varsity Pavilion, overlooking the stadium in which his team recorded four wins, one loss, and the aforementioned two draws during the regular season. He gestures out of the window toward the field below when he talks about his players, as if evoking their spirits. While the soccer season is over and the goal posts are no longer even on the field, Cavalluzzo gives the impression that this is still very much home.

“That group of players is a special group that I’ll never forget… This year, as my first year as [head] coach, for them to do that, for me, is special.”

The unexpected path

Cavalluzzo’s path to the Blues head coach role was an unexpected one, like many of his other career moves. Still only 26, Cavalluzzo played as a goalkeeper for the McMaster Marauders men’s soccer team while pursuing a degree in chemical engineering and bioengineering from 2011–2015. He earned four OUA medals, one silver U SPORTS medal, and a 2014 OUA All-Star place. He also had stints playing with the Toronto FC Academy and the semi-professional outfit, Niagara United, during this time.

After graduation, he worked as a goalkeeping coach at both McMaster and the Toronto FC Academy, following an invitation from their coach Luciano Lombardi.

Soon after, he was invited to train with Toronto FC II, where unexpected starting goalkeeper injuries meant that Cavalluzzo was called into action and played in five games. At the end of the season, his solid performances convinced Toronto FC II to offer him a professional contract.

“It was unexpected — I think my whole life after school is kind of unexpected,” Cavalluzzo says. “When I graduated [from McMaster] I didn’t expect to be playing soccer. [I] expected to get an engineering job and that would be it.”

After securing his position as first-choice goalkeeper and making over 30 appearances across two years, Cavalluzzo ruptured his Achilles tendon in May 2018. Fans feared that he could miss the rest of the season — in actuality, that was his last game for the club.

Despite this, the following 12 months proved to be a whirlwind.

In August 2018, Lombardi, who was the Blues women’s soccer team head coach at the time, invited Cavalluzzo to join the Blues as an assistant coach. Three months after that, Cavalluzzo finally got his engineering job too, with engineering company AGI Danmare. Then, in April 2019, he was appointed as the Blues’ associate head coach, following Lombardi’s departure.

The rest, as they say, is history. Or, more accurately, the rest involved the creation of new history and new heights.

Onward and upward

This past season, the Blues were one win away from their first-ever OUA gold medal. At the U SPORTS level, they were two wins shy of their first-ever national gold medal — which begs the question: does Cavalluzzo believe the Blues can top what they achieved last season?

“It’s very clearly going to be our goal,” he says, before adding that the unpredictability of the OUA knockout stages means that nothing is certain.

“But obviously that’s going to be our goal — is to win an OUA gold and U SPORTS gold. And whether that happens next year, [the] year after, or four or five years from now, it’s already going to be our goal because seeing what we did last year, I think they’re going to be hungry for more. And knowing that [the players] can do it, they’re never going to lower their expectations. Whether that’s a blessing or a curse, I think it’s a very good thing.”

The task of improving upon an excellent season will be made tougher by the departure of key players Wolever and right-back Daniella Cipriano, who have both reached their eligibility cap. Goalkeeper Stephania Turyk and defender Marie Kuhn are also leaving, while the returns of fourth-year trio Mackay, Staggolis, and defender Anna Crone are yet to be confirmed.

Fortunately, Cavalluzzo now has nine months to prepare for next season, and his squad has already been bolstered with six new recruits, with more to come. This ambition, experience, and recruitment drive provides a good framework for the continued growth of the women’s soccer program.

Beyond the Blues

But what about the overall state of women’s soccer in Canada?

Cavalluzzo contemplates this question for a moment, before delving into a clear and frank assessment of the complex ecosystem.

He says that Canada’s women’s team has stagnated in recent years, and he hopes that last year’s launch of the professional Canadian Premier League for men will result in a similar enterprise to cultivate professional women soccer players. However, he’s also keenly aware of the financial obstacles obstructing such goals, especially given the protracted saga surrounding men’s soccer.

“How can we foster [women soccer players’] technical ability, that love of soccer and not let it fade away because they realize that, ‘Oof I can’t make a living out of this, I’m just going to stop and give up?’ And if you probably asked a survey of all university student athletes — and soccer specifically — how many continue to play [competitively] after university… I bet you that number’s a lot lower than anyone would want it to be.”

When asked about the role that Canadian universities’ women’s soccer programs play in contributing to this end goal, Cavalluzzo is quick to identify the structural barriers that exist.

“I think the environment we create for them is very, very good, but you have to look at it as: it is university and it’s a niche group of athletes that you’re going to get here because not everyone has the academics to get in,” he says. “That’s our reality. And we try and make the most out of it and to give student athletes the best experience they can. And if they want to go on and play soccer afterward, I have every intention of helping them do that.”

While Cavalluzzo’s goalkeeping career may have been cut short, his coaching revolution is just beginning. And based on the evidence of this past season, his players — past, present, and future — are in very safe hands.

Disclosure: Michael Teoh previously served as The Varsity’s Volume 138 Deputy Senior Copy Editor and Volume 139 Business Editor.

Women’s soccer team season retrospective

A look back on the team’s most successful season in program history

Women’s soccer team season retrospective

It’s been a big year for the Varsity Blues women’s soccer team. The Blues earned an impressive 24 total points to tie for third place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East division in terms of points, which is leaps and bounds from their performance last year.

The team also made program history twice this season: first, by advancing to the semifinals at nationals, and second, by earning a U SPORTS bronze medal. A lot of factors that led to this fantastic success; notably a head coaching change, brand new players, and seasoned veterans. The Varsity spoke to Captain Maddie MacKay and striker Erin Kelly to get the inside scoop on a stellar season.

The players largely attribute their success to a change in team mindset, which was jump-started by a shift in coaching staff. Angelo Cavalluzzo, who was an assistant coach in the 2018 season, stepped up to the plate after the resignation of Head Coach Luciano Lombardi. Assistant Coaches Kieran Doyle Davis and Jessie Faber also joined, alongside longtime goalkeeper coach Dave Ennis.

This marked a dramatic shift in the coaching style and consequently impacted team morale, notes MacKay. “The new coaching staff really injected the team with a desire to succeed and a belief that we were actually capable of doing so,” she says.

“It really felt like every single player was committed to giving it their all this year, which is a very different kind of culture compared to years past.” Kelly agrees that “they brought huge energy that positively affected players and carried momentum throughout the year.”

This positive energy allowed for huge improvements to be made over the course of the season. The Blues notched seven wins and a mere three losses, all thanks to continued improvement and renewed motivation.

Kelly notes that at first, there was a learning curve that came with the new coaching and thus a new formulation of play, which eventually worked out for the best. “We learned a new system of play which we got more comfortable with as we played more games, making for some offensive creativity as the season progressed.”

“I’ve personally learned more this year than in my previous three years with the program combined, and it’s all thanks to our coaching staff. They’re a really fantastic group of people and we wouldn’t have been as successful as we were this year without them,” MacKay added.

The proof is in the numbers: when Toronto first played against the Queen’s Gaels they lost, but during the next rematch, Toronto managed to draw. Late in October, the very same Blues beat the Gaels handily, with a score of 3–0.

These improvements bought them a ticket to Victoria, British Columbia, for the U SPORTS Championship for the first time. They proceeded to beat the Cape Breton Capers 3–0 to advance to the national semifinal.

“I never thought we’d make it to [the] OUA final four, let alone win a national medal,” admits MacKay. Kelly adds that she felt “very proud to represent the alumni that worked so hard during their time with the team. I felt motivated to work as hard as possible for players that [are] graduating this year.”

MacKay is potentially one of them. “It’s definitely super emotional,” she admits. “During your time you watch a lot of teammates come and go, but it doesn’t really register until it’s happening to you. I hope I’m able to come back for one more year, but if not then I couldn’t have asked for a better one to end off on.”

The introduction of some new talent also added fuel to the fire of this red-hot season. Miranda Badovinac joined the Blues as a midfielder after playing for the University of Albany for two seasons, and made her mark. She scored a total of 13 goals over the course of the season, and had two assists. Striker Jenny Wolever, a convert from the Queen’s Gaels, the Blues’ rivals, represented Canada at the 2019 International University Sports Federation Summer Universiade in Italy before scoring nine goals and performing eight assists for the Blues.

So, what’s in store for next year? Hopefully a stayed course on this upward trajectory. If one thing’s certain, it’s that the Blues women’s soccer team is showing no signs of slowing down.

MacKay says that all of the home-turf support the team has been getting is helping them stay enthusiastic and focused on next season. “The support from everybody at U of T since we’ve gotten back has also been really overwhelming… It really feels like everyone is genuinely happy for our success.”

Blues break losing streak against Rams in quarterfinal matchup

Men’s soccer team win 3–1 against rivals, courtesy of Tesker, Stakic, Russo

Blues break losing streak against Rams in quarterfinal matchup

For the Varsity Blues men’s soccer team, the old proverb ‘third time’s the charm’ rings true. Courtesy of excellent goals from Artem Tesker, Nikola Stakic, and Nicola Russo, the Blues claimed an impressive Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarterfinal victory against the Ryerson Rams on Sunday evening. The victory comes after having suffered the ignominy of being dumped out by the Rams at the OUA quarterfinal stage in both 2017 and 2018. 

Beyond that, the win also marks the end of the Blues’ three-year winless streak against their Toronto rivals, as their previous win against the Rams came 1,085 days prior to this one. Yousef Helmy, Kenny Lioutas, and Stakic are the only remaining players from that team.

The former two are in their final year of eligibility, meaning that this game could have been their last with the team. Fortunately for them, however, this win means that the Blues will live to fight another round, against the York Lions on November 1.

In truth, the 3–1 scoreline flattered the Rams, who looked lethargic and insipid throughout much of the match. In contrast, the Blues started on the front foot, playing with courage and showing a clear commitment to head coach Ilya Orlov’s tactical plan. This plan consisted of a structured press when defending, was quick to transition, and played wide when attacking. 

The majority of the opening 20 minutes was spent in the Rams’ half, with the Blues pinging the ball around effectively and breaking down the Rams’ attacks before they could develop. Tesker and Atchu Sivananthan again played as the Blues’ forward two. They linked up well, reading each other’s runs and effectively drawing defenders away from one another.

It is perhaps no surprise then that the two of them were involved in opening the scoring in the 27th minute. Receiving the ball near the halfway line, Sivananthan drove forward at the Rams’ defenders, who were unable to cope with his direct running and dribbling.

As he progressed toward the Rams’ goal, he unleashed a powerful shot that the keeper could only parry into an onrushing Tesker’s path on the right side of goal. Tesker then slammed a shot into the top left corner of the net to make the score 1–0.

The goal seemed to awaken the Rams, who began to press forward for the equalizer, and almost found it in the 35th minute. A corner kick was delivered into the Blues’ box and was headed goalward, only for the Blues to scramble it away with a fine goal-line clearance.

While the Rams continued to look for a goal, the Blues did not relent in their own attacks, as Sivananthan played a creative tour de force, inspiring all of the Blues’ attacks. He was involved again as the Blues scored their second goal in added time of the first half. The goal was almost identical to the first as Stakic received the ball on the right side of the opposition box and slammed the shot into the top left corner, beyond the keeper.

The Rams finally got their act together to start the second half, nearly scoring in the 48th minute after forward Kyle Laborde-Ayres hit the post. The Rams exerted intense pressure on the Blues, who found it difficult at times to play the ball forward.

When the Blues finally did break forward, they made it count. Sivananthan and Tesker combined well to evacuate their defensive half, and Tesker embarked on a good run against the diminished Rams defence. It seemed as if his chance was gone when more defenders returned to their positions, but Tesker found Russo on the outer right edge of the box with a perfectly weighted pass. Russo ran onto the ball and hit a first-time volley to score the Blues’ third of the match.

Apparently not content to protect a 3–0 lead, the Blues continued to commit men forward, pinning the Rams’ defence back. While they continued to look threatening going forward, their defence began to crumble under greater Rams pressure.

In the 66th minute, the Blues lost the ball in the attacking third, falling victim to a quick counter-attack. The Rams hit the post in the ensuing attack and the Blues, in the chaos of attempting to clear the ball from the crowded box, conceded a penalty. Rams captain Abdallah El-Chanti — who for large portions of the game was unable to help the Rams move forward effectively despite tidy passing — stepped up and hit the top left corner, above the dive of Blues keeper Stefan Dusciuc.

After conceding the goal, the Blues seemed to realize that they were already winning and subsequently did not have to commit so many players forward. They returned to the tight defensive structure that they started the match with, diminishing the Rams’ attacks. 

The Blues soaked up pressure well in the closing 15 minutes of the game. The Rams again hit the post late after Dusciuc misjudged a shot, but they ultimately did not add to their consolation goal. The ever-impressive Sivananthan continued to torment the Rams when the Blues did break and could easily have added to his five-goal tally of the season in added time, only for the goalkeeper to save well.

Much of the match was marred by poor refereeing, with both sets of players, coaches, and fans vocally criticizing the referee and his assistants. However, in the end, the Blues will be grateful that they were able to relegate the referees’ errors to a footnote in their sweet revenge story.

Up next for the Blues are the York Lions in the OUA semifinal. The Lions finished first in the OUA West conference and have won the OUA in each of the last two years. The Blues’ last win against the Lions was in 2011, and their last four matches against them have all ended in defeat.

The Blues were able to end their three-year winless run against the Rams in an impressive fashion, so what’s stopping them from ending an eight-year one against the Lions?

Disclosure: Michael Teoh previously served as The Varsity’s Volume 138 Deputy Senior Copy Editor and Volume 139 Business Editor.

Editor’s Note (November 10, 1:24 pm): This article has been updated to reflect the author’s former affiliations with The Varsity.

Blues women’s soccer triumph 1–0 in nervy contest against Ridgebacks

Women’s soccer team advance to OUA quarter-final matchup against Gaels

Blues women’s soccer triumph 1–0 in nervy contest against Ridgebacks

For the second time this season, the Varsity Blues women’s soccer team welcomed the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks to Varsity Stadium. And for the second time this season, the Blues emerged victorious against their Oshawa-based opposition.

While the Blues had previously claimed a 3–1 victory against the Ridgebacks on September 13, this Wednesday’s hard-fought 1–0 was much more impressive. The victory also ensured the Blues’ advancement to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarterfinals, where they will face the Queen’s University Gaels in Kingston on Sunday.

While the game’s lone goal was scored via a header from the ever-impressive Miranda Badovinac in the 17th minute, the Blues had to remain alert at the back throughout the 90 minutes to ensure victory. Ridgebacks forward Taijah Henderson, who missed the previous clash between these two teams, was a constant threat to the Blues’ defense. Henderson led the Ridgebacks’ intense high press early in the game, while the Blues struggled to impose themselves.

At the other end of the pitch, the Blues’ forward trio of Badovinac, Erin Kelly, and Jenny Wolever struggled to break past the Ridgebacks’ disciplined defensive line until the 13th minute. A 45-yard goal kick by Blues goalkeeper Vanna Staggolis bounced favourably for Kelly, who booted the ball toward Wolever on the left flank.

Wolever’s initial cross into the box was blocked by a Ridgebacks defender, but Badovinac was aware of the situation, and claimed the loose ball. She cut in front of Ridgebacks defender Mikaela Tierney, who was adjudged by the referee to have fouled her inside the area.

Blues captain Maddie MacKay stepped up for the ensuing penalty, knowing that a goal could ease the building tension in the team and force the Ridgebacks to loosen their defensive shape in search of an equalizer. Ridgebacks goalkeeper Alicia Chisholm had other plans. The first-year keeper dove low to her right to palm away MacKay’s effort, sending the boisterous Ridgebacks supporters into raptures.

MacKay made up for her miss a few minutes later, intercepting a loose ball from the Ridgebacks and lobbing it toward Badovinac, who laid the ball off for Kelly. Brushing off a challenge from Tierney, Kelly unleashed Wolever down the left flank. Wolever’s delivery this time was inch-perfect for Badovinac to head into the far corner of the goal.

The Blues established a greater foothold into the game as the first half progressed, giving it a more exciting end-to-end dynamic. Both teams suffered a few defensive lapses in concentration but neither were able to capitalize.

In the 26th minute, Blues defender Daniella Cipriano played a corner to Mackay, who found herself in acres of space 23 yards away from the goal. She launched a looping ball toward the goal that beat Chisholm but rebounded off the crossbar. In the ensuing counter-attack, Henderson displayed good hold-up play and earned a foul from Blues defender Anna Crone from 18 yards out. Ridgebacks defender Julia Listro then sent a shot to the bottom right of the goal, forcing a good save from Staggolis.

The Ridgebacks spent much of the second half camped in the Blues’ half but they were unable to find an equalizer, despite the Blues’ nervy defending. In the 85th minute, Listro received the ball from a throw-in and lobbed it into the box, beyond four Blues defenders. Ridgebacks midfielder Melanie Hoekstra received the ball ahead of Crone and fizzed a shot across the face of the goal. Despite a barrage of late attacks, the Blues held on to book their place in the OUA quarter-finals.

After the game, Associate Head Coach Angelo Cavalluzzo praised the Blues’ defensive organization but said that their aerial defending was poor. “Not super pleased with [the defending], I think we could have been a lot better. We have been a lot better. That’s a positive that we still kept a clean sheet even though things weren’t as tight as… they should have been.”

“If you watch our performances from the beginning of the season compared to now, it’s totally different,” he added. “I think we’ve improved leaps and bounds, and I think [the Ridgebacks have] improved leaps and bounds. They gave us a game tonight, and they were a lot better than the team we faced earlier in the season.”

The Blues will face a tough away game with the Gaels in the quarterfinal. Their record against the opposition is poor, having last won in 2014. In their 10 games against the Gaels since that victory, they have lost eight times and drawn twice.

The Blues will need to execute their defensive plan against the Gaels perfectly if they are to advance to the OUA final four. Otherwise, they will need to hope that their front three can add to their 18-goal tally, and, given their performances over the course of the season, Blues fans have good reason to expect that one of them will find the back of the net.

Disclosure: Michael Teoh previously served as The Varsity’s Volume 138 Deputy Senior Copy Editor and Volume 139 Business Editor.

Blues cruise to 6–0 victory over lackadaisical Lakers

Men’s soccer team advance to OUA quarter-final matchup against Ryerson

Blues cruise to 6–0 victory over lackadaisical Lakers

Eighty-eight minutes into this one-sided affair, Blues midfielder Nikola Stakic received the ball in acres of space on the halfway line, sauntered forward 15 yards, and nonchalantly dinged a perfectly weighted ball over a brittle Nipissing Lakers backline to unleash winger Jacob Doroszkiewicz.

By the time Doroszkiewicz caught up to the ball on the right flank, three of his Blues teammates populated the opposition box completely unmarked. Doroszkiewicz fizzed a cross first time across the face of the goal, allowing forward Matthew Roberts to poke the ball into the back of the net. There were four Lakers defenders in the box too, but by this stage in the game they had long forgotten the concept of defending. This was the final goal in a lopsided affair which the Blues won 6-0 to cruise their way to a quarterfinal berth.

Of course, the disparity in quality between the two sides was no surprise: the Blues had finished the regular Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East season in third place with 30 points, while the Lakers had finished in sixth with 16 points. The teams were drawn against each other here for the OUA playoffs, a preliminary round for the teams in third through sixth place to determine who plays the first- and second-ranked teams in the quarterfinals. Still, the Blues deserve credit for an inspired and ruthless 90-minute performance.

The Blues started the game on the front foot, moving the ball forward and forcing the Lakers into errors with a high forward press. Two minutes into the game, the Lakers gave the ball away from a throw-in, allowing the Blues to take control and switch play to the right flank. Weak clearance from a Lakers defender allowed midfielder Nicola Russo to intercept the ball and deliver it to Stakic.

The midfielder deftly pulled three opposition players out of position with his dart infield before delivering a defense-splitting ball onto the path of attacking midfielder Atchu Sivananthan, who slotted the ball into the net.

“Once we get the first goal we’re a difficult team to play against,” head coach Ilya Orlov said in a post-game interview. “I think that [goal] settled us down and also just enhanced our confidence.”

Indeed, the Blues’ confidence was on full display as they continued to torment their opposition with an effective press and a compact structure. The Lakers, meanwhile, continued to invite pressure with subpar passing and poor positioning. In the 14th minute, Lakers defender Cody Vaillancourt passed the ball straight to Blues midfielder Yousef Helmy on the edge of the box. Helmy, somehow completely unmarked despite there being seven Lakers defenders in the box, scored with a powerful shot into the far corner, bringing the score to 2–0.

Fourteen minutes later — and, remarkably, with eight Lakers defenders in the box — Nicholas Osorio received the ball from Helmy in the same position. He buried a shot into the near corner to increase the Blues’ lead to 3–0.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first as the Blues continued to bear down on the Lakers’ goal. Sivananthan, playing the number-10 role, combined exceptionally well with centre forward Artem Tesker throughout the game, weaving in between the Lakers’ inattentive defense. In the 48th minute, Sivananthan, receiving the ball 45 yards away from goal, embarked on a mesmerizing solo run that culminated in his second and the Blues’ fourth goal of the game.

The Blues’ next goal came courtesy of yet another defensive lapse from the Lakers as Jamal Brown passed the ball straight to Tesker in the 71st minute. The first-year forward found Russo, who squared the ball for Doroszkiewicz to claim the Blues’ fifth of the night.

First-year striker Roberts was brought on for Tesker two minutes later. The former Swansea City U18 player saw his first minutes on the field since his injury on September 1 in a game against the Gaels, and capped off a fine cameo performance with the team’s sixth goal.

The Blues will now face the Ryerson Rams in the OUA quarterfinals for the third year in a row.

“We’ll see tactical adjustments based on how they play but I think if we come out with this kind of energy and this kind of performance, we should be fine,” Orlov said. “It’s a Toronto derby so of course it’ll be a good one as always.”

While the Blues’ games against the Rams are often exciting affairs, their record against their Toronto rivals is poor. The Blues have lost six and drawn two of their past eight encounters. This season, the Blues drew 0–0 with the Rams at home and lost 2–1 away.

Progression beyond the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 will be a tough task for the Blues, but this 6–0 victory certainly sends a strong message of intent.

Disclosure: Michael Teoh previously served as The Varsity’s Volume 138 Deputy Senior Copy Editor and Volume 139 Business Editor.

Varsity Blues Men’s Soccer vs. Nipissing University

Varsity Blues Women’s Soccer vs. Trent

Varsity Blues Women’s Soccer vs. Ontario Tech