Burlington, Ont. – Several programs have found continued success over the years and with the quality of student-athletes and coaches seen across the conference, these consistent results are of little surprise. A pair of back-to-back winners from the East Division’s top seed, as well as two key contributors from a perennial West Division contender exemplify this notion with their latest award-winning seasons, highlighting a deserving crop of 2019 OUA men’s soccer major award winners and all-stars.
The Carleton Ravens once again stood out amongst the pack in the East Division and for a second straight year, it was one of their magnificent midfielders helping them soar to the top. Dario Conte (Ottawa, Ont.), on the heels of a Most Valuable Player selection in 2018, turned in another all-star calibre campaign en route to a back-to-back East Division MVP honour.
The decorated junior once again showed off his diverse skill set, which ranges from his goal-scoring ability to his passing to his overall vision from the midfield position, and he parlayed that into three goals and four points on the season. Beyond his value on the field, Conte also proved once again to be a respected leader and veteran presence for one of the top teams in the nation, who have now claimed the last three MVP awards in the OUA’s East Division.
Another school that is no stranger to top-player recognition is Guelph, and after seeing a Gryphon top the West Division in 2018, it is another completing the feat this year. With the injury bug biting his team’s forward group this season, Alex Zis (Oakville, Ont.) noticeably stepped up for the Gryphons to make sure the offence would continue to roll. Scoring eight goals from his position to lead all OUA midfielders, Zis was even more productive in the passing game. With his 16 assists, he was able to handily lead the conference with a margin of nine, while his 24 points also topped the OUA.
Calm, cool, and collected, players don’t come much more reliable than Zis, who completed his second season with Guelph after spending the last two years with the NCAA’s South Florida Bulls. The Oakville product, who also netted a pair of goals in Guelph’s OUA gold medal game in 2016, picked up right where he left off as a go-to option for his coach thanks as much to his leadership and personality off the pitch as his talent on it. Zis delivered on countless occasions for Guelph this season, including twice converting late penalty kicks to turn losses into draws for his side. This kind of clutch play and keen difference-making ability has helped Zis make a truly triumphant return to the Gryphons and the OUA.
Much like Zis did in his first go-around with Guelph in 2016, freshman Moses Kafeero (Ottawa, Ont.) also made his mark right from the start, helping the Gryphons to another high-calibre season on the pitch. Earning a starting spot at the full back position in his first year, Kafeero quickly became a staple on the Gryphons back-end. Heading in to 2019 needing to replace four defending positions, the mechanical engineering student instantly provided a reliable option to help speed up the search, and although he doesn’t necessarily show up on the score sheet, his presence in his own end has made his impact clear.
Scoring wasn’t a problem for fellow freshman Fadi Salback (Bowmanville, Ont.), meanwhile, as the rookie forward made an immediate impact on the Ridgebacks’ scoreboard in his foray into the university game. In his debut campaign, Salback scored a league-best 16 goals for Ontario Tech, which goes down as a school record – both men’s and women’s – for the most in a rookie season. His affinity for scoring, which was also combined with three assists, was made possible with his strength on the ball, his eye for the net, and his ability to finish. And alongside his overall attitude and team mentality, his lofty early standards seem like a sign of things to come for the software engineering student.
While players like the aforementioned award winners thrive on the field, the contributions of those on the sidelines cannot be ignored. Like his MVP midfielder, Carleton’s Kwesi Loney also takes home some hardware for a second consecutive year after collecting back-to-back East Division Coach of the Year honours. A perennial presence in the U SPORTS top-10, Loney led the Ravens to a nearly undefeated record, going 13-1-0 on the year. The former Ravens’ player guided his team to success on both sides of the ball, with the black birds soaring to a second-ranked 38 goals for and a tie for league-low in goals allowed (five). Alongside Conte’s major award, meanwhile, Loney also sees an additional five players earn all-star selections, including four of the first team variety.
While Loney earns this award in two straight seasons, it is the second such honour in the last three years for Brock’s Lucio Ianiero. The now two-time OUA Coach of the Year in the West Division guided the Badgers to a thrilling season, helping the St. Catharines squad earn a 6-5-3 record, good enough for third in the division. After suiting up for the Badgers and being named an OUA all-star himself in 1992, the Brock bench boss helped a trio of current players earn similar recognition – including one first-team selection – backed by a seventh-ranked offensive output and a spot back in the postseason after missing out in 2018.
Another decorated season came via a member of the Toronto Varsity Blues, thanks as much to his work off the pitch as on it. The East Division’s Community Service Award winner, Yousef Helmy (Mississauga, Ont.) has volunteered his time with numerous organizations over the past year. The kinesiology major has worked as the charity week regional director for Islamic Relief Canada, overseeing a team of 10+ members for one of the largest volunteer-led charity events in the world, called ‘Charity Week’. The program raised over $10,000 in funds for orphans and built three wells in countries in need.
In addition, Helmy has volunteered as a mentor, coach, and referee with the Muslim Youth Soccer League and also served as an assistant coach with the Dixie Soccer Club’s U21 squad. He is the sports director of soccer at the Islamic Society of North America and is the religious services co-director with the Muslim Students’ Association at the University of Toronto. The former OUA Rookie of the Year is also the president and co-founder of the Masjid Cup, a new non-profit sporting organization that hosts annual soccer tournaments, leagues, and events, with the goal of uniting the Muslim community through soccer and raise funds for charity.
Christian Cossidente (Toronto, Ont.), meanwhile, had produced the OUA’s top play of the week with his lone goal of the season, but the senior’s ultimate highlights also came off the pitch, earning him the 2019 Community Service Award in the West Division. Cossidente has gotten behind several causes, including Think Pink, #NoGoodWay, and Bell Let’s Talk. His active role with McMaster Athletes Care allows him to not only support these initiatives, but to get involved in other ways in the community, including mentoring at-risk youth, using sport and education to facility positive change, and more.
The Toronto native is also part of the McMaster Varsity Leadership Committee, is the Men’s Soccer Leadership Committee Chair, and participates in the first-year mentor program to help incoming student-athletes in their transition to university. Further pursuing this involvement with new students, the Bachelor of Health Sciences peer tutor also introduced and ran a first-year community event for the program to discuss and highlight cultural awareness and the importance of diversity.
In addition to this impressive list of major award winners are 22 all-star selections in each division, each of whom thrived at their respective position to stand out among their peers. The complete list of 2019 OUA men’s soccer major award winners and all-stars is:
East Division Major Awards:
Most Valuable Player – Dario Conte, Carleton
Rookie of the Year – Fadi Salback, Ontario Tech
Community Service Award – Yousef Helmy, Toronto
Coach of the Year – Kwesi Loney, Carleton
West Division Major Awards:
Most Valuable Player – Alex Zis, Guelph
Rookie of the Year – Moses Kafeero, Guelph
Community Service Award – Christian Cossidente, McMaster
Coach of the Year – Lucio Ianiero, Brock
East Division First Team All-Stars
Goalkeeper – Ali Ghazanfari, Ryerson
Defender – Andrew Dias, Ryerson
Defender – Kenny Lioutas, Toronto
Defender – Cristopher Malekos, Carleton
Midfielder – Dario Conte, Carleton
Midfielder – Abdallah El-Chanti, Ryerson
Midfielder – Nikola Stakic, Toronto
Midfielder – Christopher Campoli
Striker – Gabriel Bitar, Carleton
Striker – Fadi Salback, Ontario Tech
Striker – Stefan Karajovanovic, Carleton
East Division Second Team All-Stars
Goalkeeper – Sebastian Sgarbossa, Toronto
Defender – Koosha Nazemi, Toronto
Defender – Tony Mikhael, Carleton
Defender – Jacob Begley, Ontario Tech
Defender – Alex Meczarski, Ryerson
Midfielder – Ricky Comba, Carleton
Midfielder – Faisal Ghaffur, Ryerson
Midfielder – Nick Esperanca, Laurentian
Striker – Atchu Sivananthan, Toronto
Striker – Jean Paul Ajala-Alexis, Ontario Tech
Striker – Augustus Oku, Laurentian
West Division First Team All-Stars
Goalkeeper – Mike Argyrides, York
Defender – Francesco Sinopoli, York
Defender – Ian Vidovich, Guelph
Defender – Reggie Laryea, York
Defender – Luka Frankovich, Waterloo
Midfielder – Alex Zis, Guelph
Midfielder – Jorgo Nika, York
Midfielder – Anand Sergeant, McMaster
Striker – Jared Agyemang, Brock
Striker – Merci Yuma, York
Striker – Christopher Jacovou, York
West Division Second Team All-Stars
Goalkeeper – Alexander May, Brock
Defender – Kyle Buren, Windsor
Defender – Matthew Monteiro, McMaster
Defender – John Hodge, Western
Midfielder – Patrick Melo, Western
Midfielder – Yordan Stoyanov, McMaster
Midfielder – Alejandro Puentes, Brock
Midfielder – Manveer Gill, Guelph
Striker – Dusan Kovacevic, McMaster
Striker – Glorious Okpali, Laurier
Striker – Anthony Chrysanthou, Western