By Steven Smeall
Forward Abraham Kamara was celebrating after a victory on Oct. 19, much like the rest of the Algonquin men’s soccer team.
“I feel great. This is our first playoff win in three years so it’s amazing. Truly amazing,” he said.
The Thunder defeated the Niagara College Knights 3-1, securing their spot in Provincials.
“I feel like we took another step forward towards a Provincial Championship and towards a National Championship,” said head coach Jimmy Zito.
After winning the East Division and dominating the regular season, the Thunder was given a bye to the crossover quarter-final game.
Niagara defeated St. Clair College in overtime in their qualifying game and moved on to play Algonquin.
The game started off slowly, but Niagara was able to get the lead in the 25th minute after being given a penalty shot. Luckily for Algonquin, that was the only time Niagara was able to convert throughout the game.
Knowing the pressure was on, Algonquin hounded Niagara offensively, resulting in the Knights panicking during plays.
Defender Isaac Johnson tied up the game for the Thunder in the 32nd minute, just seven minutes after Niagara took the lead.
The goal was quickly followed up by a foul on Niagara in their own zone, giving Algonquin the chance to add on to the lead with a penalty shot.
Kamara easily put in his 11th goal of the season and gave the Thunder the 2-1 lead. They would not look back from there.
“We’re really proud of the guys,” said Zito. “They showed a lot of resiliency after coming back from one early. It kind of shocked us but by the 38th minute we were up 2-1 and that shows what kind of strength we have on this team.”
Algonquin controlled the rest of the first half, holding on to their lead. During half-time however, a strong storm ‘thundered’ in and caused half-time to be extended to 50 minutes.
Both teams would lose the momentum they had, having to sit in the locker rooms waiting for the storm to pass.
When the game was restarted and the storm had cleared, Niagara was the team that got off to the strong start, pressuring the Thunder to play defensively.
As the game continued on, emotions were growing strong between the two teams as many fouls were being called on tackle attempts.
In the course of five minutes, three yellow cards were issued between the two teams. Two went to Algonquin players and one to a Niagara player. One yellow was assessed to Kamara.
“The whole team was after me for no reason,” said Kamara. “They wanted to foul me and they were just trying to get into my head.”
Despite the game getting out of hand for a period of time, Algonquin held on to their lead and even added on a third goal in the 78th minute, which would later secure them the victory.
“I think it was a great win,” said midfielder Maxime El-Asmar. “It was good competition but this is just the beginning for us. We’re expected to win games like this and now we have Provincials next weekend to worry about.”
Provincials take place on Oct. 25 and 26 here at Algonquin. Zito claims that was part of what motivated the team to win against Niagara.
“I think playing at home next weekend is something that is definitely motivating guys,” said Zito. “Being at home and not having to travel, and being able to sleep in your own bed are some of the advantages of playing at home.”
Algonquin will play Fanshawe College in their semi-final matchup. The other two teams making up the final four are Humber College and Sheridan College.
Zito looked back on the playoff win as a positive experience going forward.
“I think we learned a lot today about ourselves and what we can do going forward.”