The NAIT men’s soccer team won silver at the 2017 ACAC Soccer Championship, which NAIT hosted in Sherwood Park from Oct. 28-30.
NAIT started off the tournament well, with a quarter-finals 3-2 win over Medicine Hat. Ali Musse started the match off strong for the NAIT Ooks by netting two early goals. Medicine Hat later tied the game 2-2. The Ooks, however, prevailed with an 80th-minute goal from Armando Garcia. The win sent them to the semifinals against the SAIT Trojans.
That match started as a back and forth game. It took some time for NAIT to start clicking as the SAIT Trojans tried to keep possession. Musse managed to break the deadlock in the 37th minute after a good counter-attack. He scored a well-finished shot under the keeper, making it 1-0.
Around the 45th minute, keeper Justin Marler made a key save for NAIT to preserve the lead. Then, going into the second half, the Ooks applied more pressure on the Trojans. It ended up being a very defensive match, with Armando Garcia scoring the game winner in added time to make it 2-0. Props go to Marler and the defence core for a solid clean sheet.
With the win, the Ooks progressed to the final to face the No. 1 Keyano Huskies in a match they lost 1-0. The Huskies scored an early goal in the sixth minute, which stood up for the rest of the match.
Musse was not dressed for the final as he picked up an injury in the previous game. With him out of the lineup, NAIT lacked offence without their star striker. Now the Ooks, who qualified for the nationals with their second place finish, hope they can return to good form and deliver a win there.
Aside from the Ooks, some other top matches were played. Concordia upset the Lethbridge Thunder in penalties in a dramatic game that finished 4-3 with Jake Gallagher winning it for the Thunder. The next day, Concordia lost 4-0 to Keyano. After that dominant win, Keyano progressed to the finals. Keyano had a strong tournament due to a very structured defence and fluid system. This resulted in their gold medal win over the Ooks.
The NAIT women’s team also competed in their ACAC soccer championship in Olds on the weekend. Kassy Jajczay scored the lone goal in the semifinals for a 1-0 win, which sent the Ooks to the final against Grande Prairie. In the end NAIT lost that match due to penalties.
Kaily Mohn was the goal scorer for the Ooks.
Both the women’s and men’s head coaches (Carole Holt and Charles O’Toole) won ACAC 2017-18 coach of the year awards in the North Division. The men’s team came into the provincials tied with Keyano for first in the North with a 9-1 record. They also finished first in the ACAC in shots (181) and had the fewest shots allowed. The women also had a 9-1 season to tie with the GRPC Wolves for first in the North Division.
Ooks midfielder Megan Loyns won ACAC Player of the Year and tournament MVP, while Oscar Miranda Ruiz won the men’s ACAC Rookie of the Year.
Both the GRPC Wolves and the NAIT Ooks will travel to Halifax for the CCAA National Women’s Soccer Championship on Nov. 6. The men’s team will be headed to Nanaimo, B.C. on Nov. 7 for Nationals .
– Matt Wozniak