Going into the weekend of Oct. 20, the men’s soccer team was on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. The top six teams in the OUA west division make the playoffs and the Warriors were in seventh behind the Windsor Lancers with two games remaining on their schedule.
Mathematically speaking, they were still in it, as they only trailed Windsor by five points in the standings. In order for them to make the playoffs, they needed to win their two games on Oct. 20 and 21 against the Algoma Thunderbirds, a team that had not won a single game this entire season. They also needed Windsor to lose both their games against York and Guelph, teams that stood atop the OUA west standings, making their goal of a playoff berth within reach.
Saturday’s affairs started with the Windsor Lancers facing off against the York Lions. The Lions were able to come up on top in a tightly contested 1-0 win.
The Warriors also did their part on by convincingly defeating the Thunderbirds, 5-1. The men’s soccer team put on an offensive clinic by scoring all five of their goals in the first half. Midfielder Nicholas Ribeiro found the back of the net early at the 5:00 minute mark. Three minutes later, midfielder Christoph Bruckeder tallied another one up for the Warriors. Striker Jae Jin Lee scored two goals of his own at the 26 and 37 minute marks, while Bruckeder added another one of his own at the 43 minute mark.
The Waterloo defence was outstanding, allowing Algoma to only get one shot on goal, which ended up being their lone goal scored coming from midfielder Ebrahim Madouni.
The following day, Windsor battled the Guelph Gryphons, where they needed a win or Waterloo loss or tie to clinch their playoff berth. Guelph ended up dominating Windsor en route to a final score of 5-1. The Warriors’ playoff hopes were in their own hands now.
In the second game against Algoma, the Warriors were not able to replicate the early offence they produced in the first game. It was difficult for them to get any opportunities against a stingy and physical Algoma defence.
“Not to take anything away from how we played — I thought we played really well — but I thought Algoma came out with nothing to lose and they wanted to play a spoiler role,” said midfielder and team captain Orest Kowalyk.
Around 20 minutes into the game, Bruckeder scored with a header off of a throw in but the goal was quickly waved off due to an offside penalty.
Finally, at the 30 minute mark, it was defender Patrick Aquino who was able to breakthrough and put Waterloo on the board and up 1-0, his first goal of the season, which could not have come at a more clutch time.
At half, the Warriors were still up 1-0. 45 minutes were separating them from their first playoff berth in six years.
Unfortunately, Waterloo was unable to maintain their lead as Algoma was able to tie it up at the 77 minute mark, with a goal coming from Algoma striker Ryan Marchan. The Warriors could not settle for a tie.
Late into the game, defender Michael Manu was able to get one past Algoma goalkeeper Andrew Johnstone, but once more, the goal was waved off by another offside penalty. The referees’ whistles were on a short leash.
The game concluded with a 1-1 tie, which placed the Waterloo one point behind Windsor in the standings and out of the playoff picture.
For Kowalyk, this was his last OUA game, as he is in his fifth year of eligibility. “I really do wish we won yesterday, that’s gonna hurt me for a while because it would’ve been our first time in the playoffs in the last six years,” said the team captain. “I think it was just a little bit of nerves. It was our first time having such a big, meaningful game.”