The Stingers men’s soccer team’s season has come to a close, unable to emerge victorious in their clash against the University of Montreal Carabins
The team was well aware of the high stakes coming into this final regular-season game. The Laval Rouge et Or were playing at the same time, and both teams were eager for a win to cement themselves into the top 4 and clinch a playoff berth.
While the Rouge et Or finally grasped a 2-0 win against the UQAM Citadins, the Stingers’ loss wiped out any chances of the team going further, as they needed at least a tie to secure their placement.
“I think it’s a microcosm of our season,” said Stingers’ head coach Greg Sutton after the game. “We let a lot of games slip this season that we should have been able to take care of early on and not even put ourselves in this predicament.”
Visibly upset with the turn of events, Sutton was still there to comfort the heartbroken and lamenting players on the sideline after the final whistle.
The matchup was of major difficulty for the Stingers, with the Carabins already being the reigning champions and sitting atop the division boasting an 8-1-2 record. Both their defence and offence are regarded as the best in the RSEQ, scoring 33 goals and conceding only 10. They also beat the Stingers earlier this season with a score of 4-0, and even knocked them out of the playoffs in the first round last year.
The Montreal Carabins put on a stellar performance the whole game, able to count on midfielder Lucas Frutier who had his best game of the season, scoring all four of the Carabins’ goals and being named team MVP. They were also able to rely on their rock-solid defence, which didn’t allow a single goal in the first half and was overall very efficient in keeping the Stingers at bay.
However, nothing can be taken away from the Stingers’ perseverance and unwillingness to give up. Trailing by three goals going into halftime, they entered the second half ready to leave it all on the field and fight for their right to play for the championship. They came back looking determined after the break, with early back-to-back goal opportunities. In the 65th minute, Stingers’ midfielder Benoit Litty Mpako was finally able to kick the ball into the net, giving the team its first goal of the game.
The unfortunate reality remained that the opposing defence was by far the best in the league and was not ready to give up much of an edge. The Stingers’ laboured performance was, however, shown by the fact that this game was only the third time this season that the Carabins’ fortress-like defence allowed more than one goal. Stingers’ goalkeeper Jordy Kerlegrand also turned in a solid performance with eight spectacular saves, bringing his grand total this season to 53, the third most in the RSEQ this season.
When asked about how he kept his players in the running with such a deficit, Sutton explained: “We had to believe, we had to stay motivated. The guys were able to give themselves a bit of a lifeline when they scored but when we took the fourth goal, it was hard.”
The Stingers’ defence was indeed doing a much better job after halftime, but all seemed grim when Frutier was ultimately able to find the back of the net for the fourth time in the game. Concordia’s final point came 85 minutes in, when confusion led the Carabins to score an own goal, but unfortunately for the Stingers, it was too late to orchestrate a proper comeback.
With this game being the last of the regular season, senior players were called forward before kick-off and congratulated for their tenure with the soccer team. Stingers’ midfielder John Cevik left with the team MVP award for his last game as a Stinger.
“We’ve got to keep fighting; the program is going in the right direction and now we just need to get rid of these hurdles in the way. Hopefully, we build a culture in which we can keep doing that,” concluded Sutton, who is widely optimistic for the future of the men’s soccer team.
The first playoff games will take place on Oct. 28, with Laval facing Montreal and UQAM facing UQTR to determine who will face off in the finals for the championship.