By Steven Smeall
One play can change the entire outcome of a game, and unfortunately for the Algonquin men’s soccer team, they had to learn that lesson the hard way.
After reaching the provincial finals for the first time in three years, the Thunder could not overcome the Humber Hawks, losing 1-0 after the Hawks scored off a penalty shot.
“It’s a shame when referees decide games,” said head coach Jimmy Zito.
“It wasn’t really a malicious tackle. Their legs kind of tangled up and unfortunately it led to a penalty which changed the entire game.”
On the weekend of Oct. 25 and Oct. 26, the provincial championships took place at Algonquin College. The top four teams in the league took part in a mini-tournament to decide who would leave with gold, silver, bronze, and a berth in nationals.
In the provincial semi-final on Oct. 25, Algonquin took on Fanshawe College, a team from the Western Division.
The game got off to a slow start, with both teams fighting to get the first goal of the game. That eventually came when Abraham Kamara knocked in a corner kick attempt in the 47th minute of the game.
From then on Algonquin was able to hold the lead. Defender Isaac Johnson was able to knock in another corner attempt in the 61st minute to give the Thunder a 2-0 lead in the game. Johnson was later named player of the game.
Johnson says that all the credit shouldn’t go to him after his performance.
“I think it’s the team around me,” said Johnson. “We all put a lot of work into helping each other.”
Algonquin then played a defensive game they had perfected through the regular season to hold on to their 2-0 lead, booking their ticket to the provincial finals.
“I feel great,” said Kamara after the first game. “We’ve been waiting for this for three years.”
The following day, the Thunder played the reigning national champions, the Humber Hawks. Heading into this season’s finals, Humber had also won the previous three provincial championships.
Despite winning the regular season title, going into this game, Algonquin knew that they were going to face some tough competition.
“Humber is a quality team,” said Zito. “We saw them play for 120 minutes (on Oct. 25) and we were impressed with what they did.”
“We’re going to have to slow down their dangerous players and they’ll have to try to stop ours.”
In the cold rain, both Algonquin and Humber pushed to get the first goal of the game, but neither seemed to get complete control of the game.
Both teams had shots on net, but with strong goalies, there were no goals heading into the final 10 minutes of the game.
By that time however the emotion between the two teams had gotten to the point that there were fouls being called every minute while the referee tried to keep control of the game.
For Algonquin, that did not work to their advantage. The Thunder were called on a foul in their own box, resulting in a penalty shot for the Humber Hawks.
Humber easily put the penalty shot past Thunder goalkeeper Simon Brown and into the back of the net, giving them the 1-0 lead with just minutes to go.
Despite pushing as much as they could, the Thunder could not make the comeback in time and lost the game.
Despite the loss, this Thunder team is the first Algonquin men’s soccer team to place within the top three in three years.
Kamara was named player of the year after a dominating campaign over the season, scoring a total of 12 goals for the Thunder. Kamara was also named an all-star and a Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association All-Canadian.
“This season I made sure to stay fit, so this year I came prepared mentally and physically because I have to help out my team,” said Kamara.
Thunder midfielder Alex Asmis was named the East Division rookie of the year. Asmis joins Kamara as an all-star.
Third-year goalkeeper Brown was named East Division goalkeeper of the year, wrapping up the Thunder’s awards for the season.
“They were a good bunch of guys that really meshed well and put it together,” said Zito. “They got better every week, every training session, and every game. It’s a testament to all of our guys that went out there and played well.”
While the season can be considered a success, Zito certainly wanted more for his team.
“I think with the 12 or 13 first-year players that we had, it was great to get where we got to but I think that this team deserved more.”