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.

Soccer doubleheader

Women’s team get second win of the season, while men’s team draw in game cut short

Soccer doubleheader

Women’s team

The Varsity Blues women’s soccer team secured a 3–1 win over the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks on September 13, with impressive goals from newcomer Valentina Greco, regular starter Erin Kelly, and three-time Ontario University Athletics (OUA) All-Star Jenny Wolever. This loss for the Ridgebacks continues its fall from grace after the team went undefeated in 2017. 

The Blues were dominating possession from the very beginning, making intelligent passes and creating countless shot opportunities. Defender Daniella Cipriano played an especially smart game from the outset, moving quickly up and down the line to maintain possession and shutting down the few Ridgeback offensive efforts that broke past the half line. 

Cipriano’s speed and quick thinking created the opportunity in which Greco scored her first career goal — a quick cross up the line led to a goal in the second minute. “It was a really good play built from the back, they played it wide, [Kelly] just crossed it in and I finished it,” Greco described.

Kelly kept up the momentum with a header goal from another great Cipriano touch in the 14th minute. There was a significant commotion in the keeper’s box, but Kelly kept her cool and finished the play. She was a standout player throughout the game, making lots of touches and supporting a dominant offensive trifecta with Wolever and newcomer Miranda Badovinac, who together made aggressive plays throughout the first half. 

The second half saw deteriorating organization and coordination for the Blues after a penalty against keeper Levanta Staggolis led to a penalty kick goal for UOIT. Play got a little scrappier in the final minutes, with the Ridgebacks hungry to even the mere one-goal gap and U of T fighting for three points. 

In the end, it was Wolever who made it clear that the Blues’ lead was there to stay, with an insurance goal in the 90th minute, off a Kelly assist. “This was a game where even though things weren’t coming together as we thought, we all worked together and kept pushing, and I think that’s what got us through,” said Wolever. “We’ll just keep improving from here.”

Men’s team

The Varsity Blues men’s soccer team tied the Ridgebacks 1–1 on September 13 after 75 minutes of hard playing. Despite a promising second half, in which midfielder and former Guelph Gryphon Atchu Sivananthan scored off a penalty kick, the game was cut short due to an unrelenting lightning storm.

Both teams fought aggressively from the first minute, and it shows in the 15 fouls earned only in the first half. The Blues dominated possession, keeping constant pressure in the Ridgebacks’ half and executing flawless passing patterns. 

Star defender Kenny Lioutas instigated a number of intelligent plays from the beginning, shutting down Ridgeback breakaways and consistently keeping his cool in the face of a scrappy, foul-filled game, focusing instead on keeping possession and shifting the play. 

Despite an obvious domination of possession, the Blues couldn’t seem to get any chances once they moved into the keepers’ box: the great pass formations could not be backed up by any goals in the first half, and the frustration amongst coaching staff and players of both teams was palpable. 

It was at the start of the second half that the Blues’ aggression translated to shot opportunities. After an apparent goal from OUA East second team all-star Marko Mandekic was deemed offside, the Blues’ anger translated to them outperforming their opponents as consistent shots on net were made by Sivanathan, Mandekic, and defender Koosha Nazemi. This only intensified after UOIT scored on a penalty kick, only for Sivanathan to tie the score with a redemption goal in the following minute.

This upwards trajectory was only heating up when the game was called off. 

Varsity Blues Women’s Soccer vs. Ryerson University

Varsity Blues Women’s Soccer vs. UOttawa

Varsity Blues Women’s Soccer vs. Queens

Blues sneak past Nipissing Lakers in 2–1 victory

Blues win close match on final weekend

Blues sneak past Nipissing Lakers in 2–1 victory

On a chilly autumn evening, the Varsity Blues women’s soccer team closed out their regular season with a win against the Nipissing Lakers.

Anticipation was in the air at Varsity Stadium as the sun set and the game began.

The Blues struggled to get their rhythm at the beginning of the first half. Some cracks in the defense offered a few opportunities for the Lakers. At a mere six minutes into the game, Nipissing’s Lauren De Jong got a shot on net after a free kick. While Blues goalkeeper Vanna Staggolis initially stumbled, she managed to swap the ball up in an impressive recovery.

As the game progressed, the Blues managed to keep their momentum up with a few close opportunities. In the 11th minute, the Blues got on the end of a cross, but the ball immediately went over the net. At the 25-minute mark, after a cross from the right wing, Blues midfielder Julia Gonsalves managed to control the ball with her chest but once again couldn’t find the back of the net.

As halftime neared, Blues striker Natasha Klasios turned the game around by sneaking past a Lakers defender in a one-on-one and easily slipping the ball into the corner of the net, past Nipissing goalkeeper Mykaela Volpe.

The Blues came into second half with Erin Kelly substituting for Gonsalves. Kelly was a strong presence on the field, providing Toronto with fast-paced energy and strong footwork.

Early into the half, it was clear that Nipissing was hungry for a goal. Nipissing forward Andrea Young had two close calls around the 50-minute mark — the first was saved by Staggolis and the second ran wide — all in the span of three minutes. After a scramble in the penalty box during the 69th minute, Young managed to get a shot on net. Responding quickly, Staggolis made a beautiful diving save.

Despite the increasing pressure from Nipissing, the Blues managed to keep their composure. Toronto’s front line was consistently solid leading up to the team’s second goal of the night. In the 76th minute, after a solid run, Klasios placed a perfect pass to Blues captain Chelsea Cheung, who scored firmly, leaving little time for Volpe to react.

The end of the match saw both teams get physical. A minute after Cheung’s goal, Nipissing forward Abby Wroe received a yellow card for running into Staggolis after she received the ball. Staggolis quickly shoved Wroe away, adding a tense atmosphere to the game.

The Lakers received a corner kick at the 85th minute, when Staggolis saved an attempt on goal by Wroe. Within the minute, Nipissing received a second corner — this time, Wroe found the net from inside the six-yard box.

Both teams played hard up until the last seconds of extra time. The game ended with the Blues firing nine shots, making six saves, and receiving eight fouls. The Lakers had 10 shots, three saves, and six fouls.

The win wraps up the Blues’ regular season with five wins, six losses, and four ties.

Blues beat RMC Paladins 1–0

Klasios leads Blues to victory

Blues beat RMC Paladins 1–0

On a windy Saturday afternoon, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s soccer team took to the field to play the Royal Military College (RMC) Paladins. The game began quickly with fourth-year striker Natasha Klasios scoring in the seventh minute of the game from an indirect free kick, marking her fourth goal of the season.

Klasios’ goal set the tone for the rest of the game, with the Blues keeping control of the play for the majority of the game. In the first half, the Blues had a very strong defensive line that kept RMC to only one shot in the first 45 minutes. The Blues kept most of the play in RMC’s area and tried to get another goal, taking seven shots in the first half without success.

The second half had the Blues taking control of the game again, with most of the plays once again occurring in RMC’s end. Numerous attempts by Klasios, Erin Kelly, and Kristen Parkes were made to secure a second goal, but nothing was getting by RMC’s defensive line or goalie, Claudia Rusu.

Compared to the single substitution in the first half, there were many substitutions during the second half, with Toronto subbing three times and RMC four, mainly due to injury.

The Blues had a total of 18 shots over RMC’s three during the match. Eight of Toronto’s shots came from Klasios, while Kelly and Parkes each had three. Additionally, midfielder Maddie MacKay and defender Kelly Johnson contributed one shot each. Both teams’ goalies played good games, with Toronto’s Vanna Staggolis making two saves and Rusu making eight.

The game got a little more aggressive in the second half, with Toronto incurring three fouls and RMC incurring four — two in each half. In the last minute of the game, Kelly was issued a yellow card.

This game leaves the Blues at four wins, four losses, and two ties as of Saturday.