SCARBOROUGH, ON – The Guelph Gryphons have known all season that they would play in the U Sports men's soccer championship tournament at home in November.
They're one step away from not only hosting the event, but also representing Ontario as the OUA champs.
The Gryphons needed extra time to do it, but they upset the Ryerson Rams 3-0 in their semifinal match on Saturday afternoon at Birchmount Stadium.
Tomasz Skublak, Alexander Zis and Christopher Jacovou scored for the Gryphs, who will meet the undefeated York Lions for the Ontario title on Sunday at 3 p.m., also at Birchmount.
York beat the Toronto Varsity Blues 1-0 in Saturday's other OUA semifinal here on a goal in the 88th minute by Milan Beader.
Something had to give on Saturday in this Guelph-Ryerson battle. No one in the province had scored more goals than the Gryphs during the regular season, led by top scorers like Jace Kotsopoulos and Skublak, both of whom are OUA West second-team all-stars.
But no one had allowed fewer goals than the Rams, backstopped by goalkeeper Praveen Ahilan and defender Kyle Stewart, both of whom are OUA East all-stars.
And for the 90-plus minutes of regulation time, it was the Rams defence that was mainly responsible for a clean score sheet. The Gryphs carried much of the play, but couldn't beat Ahilan despite a number of good attempts. Likewise, Guelph goalkeeper Benjamin Caranci was also perfect at the other end of the pitch.
Two 15-minute extra halves were played to help settle the issue. Skublak finally broke through for the Gryphs when the second-year striker from Hamilton, ON scored from the top of the box 10 minutes into the first extra half.
Rookie midfielder Zis, from Oakville, ON, made it 2-0 only moments later. That score stood up until very late in the second extra half, when Ryerson's vaunted defence finally gave way for good, allowing Jacovou to break in alone on Ahilan. The second-year midfielder from Toronto chipped it over Ahilan and into the net to seal the victory.
A big hurdle awaits the Gryphs tomorrow in the form of the York Lions, who are seeking their fourth consecutive Ontario championship. Guelph's only two losses so far this season have come at the hands of the Lions, who compiled a 14-0-2 record in the OUA West Division.
York also eliminated the Gryphs from last year's playoffs, and traditionally has had Guelph's number over the years, but the underdogs are hoping to turn the page with a provincial title on the line.
The Rams and the Blues will play on Sunday at noon for OUA bronze, and for the last Ontario berth at the Canadian championship tournament in Guelph. That event begins on Nov. 10 at Alumni Stadium.
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