Written by Samuel Hill
Photo by Valerie Wutti
OTTAWA – Carleton is moving on to the Semi-Finals of the OUA playoffs after beating McMaster 3-1 in Ottawa. It wasn’t exactly a picture-perfect night for a soccer match at the Raven’s Perch on Wednesday, but the Raven men didn’t seem to care how cold it was as they came out firing early.
Two goals in the first ten minutes from the Ravens were just what they deserved, considering how they started the match. Carleton’s intensity, physicality and counter-pressing smothered McMaster from the moment the ball was kicked off, and it was clear which team was ready for a playoff battle.
The first Ravens goal came in the eighth minute after a lengthy spell of possession in which the ball was recycled out wide to right-back Raphael Garcia (Ottawa, Ont.). Garcia, who has been superb all year controlling the right flank for the Ravens, put in a brilliant low cross into a dangerous area. The ball went untouched through multiple Raven players and into the bottom corner to send the BirdGang into a frenzy.
Carleton showed their quality for their second goal, an incisive, deadly counterattack that stemmed from a McMaster set piece. The best teams can turn defence into attack instantly, and this was a great example of that from the Ravens. Matteo De Brienne (Ottawa, Ont.) started the counter by knocking it down for Dario Conte (Ottawa, Ont.); Conte quickly found Luca Piccoli (Ottawa, Ont.), who promptly slipped through Scott Mazzotta (Ottawa, Ont.). Mazzotta’s first touch popped the ball up, but he took it in stride on the half volley and smashed it into the bottom corner.
Ravens head coach Kwesi Loney made a tactical gamble starting rookie sensation Matteo De Brienne (Ottawa, Ont.) in the centre forward position. But the move did wonders for the Carleton attack as his versatility and movement opened up space for his teammates and gave the Marauders headaches. After the match, Loney praised De Brienne for his energy and hard work: “He brings a lot of energy. You know he’s always dangerous up front, whether that be running at defenders or getting in behind. We really enjoy him upfront, especially in a one-striker formation. He really gives us a ton of opportunities up there.”
After a McMaster handball in the box, Dario Conte added the third Ravens goal just before halftime from the penalty spot. After that, it was hard to see a way back for the Marauders, who had barely tested the Carleton backline all match. As a result, the second half was pretty mundane, in a good way, for the Ravens, who continued to limit McMaster from creating anything threatening from open play. The Marauders did get themselves on the board late in the match from a free-kick, but that was all they could muster.
The Ravens are an experienced group who know what it takes to win when the weather begins to drop, and the nerves start to rise. A significant part of performing in the playoffs is peaking at the right time, and the Ravens look like they’re doing just that. Their coach recognized how much his team has developed since the start of the season postgame. Loney said: “We’ve done a fantastic job all season long of just growing. Week by week, game by game, and it was just great to see us do that again today. Hopefully, we can carry that into the next match.
The Ravens already have a spot secured in Nationals as the host school, but there’s no doubt that they want to prove they belong there on merit. Tonight was the first test in showing that, and they passed with flying colours.
The OUA Semi-Final will be played this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. on the road against the first-seed Guelph Gryphons.