Photo by Valerie Wutti
With national championship aspirations and a highly talented group of returning players, the Ravens men’s soccer team will aim for Canadian university supremacy in 2021.
2019 regular season record: 13-12019 regular season standings: 1st in OUA East2019 playoff record: 3-0 (OUA); 1-2 (U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship)2019 playoff finish: Champions (OUA); 4th place (U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship)2021 Preseason USPORTS National Ranking: 4th placeHome Field: Ravens’ PerchSEASON SCHEDULE
When the Ravens open the 2021 OUA regular season against the Queen’s Gaels on September 24, it will mark 705 days since the team last played a regular-season game, a 6-0 victory over Trent on October 20, 2019.
The Ravens last played a meaningful competitive match in March 2020 where they were crowned 2020 RSEQ Men’s Soccer Indoor champions, finishing with a 6-0-1 record which included an impressive 4-3 victory over 2019 U SPORTS national champions University of Quebec Trois-Rivieres Patriotes.
The Ravens rolled to a 13-1 regular season record. It marked the third straight season the Ravens won 13 or more regular season games, collecting 13 wins in 2017 and 14 wins in 2018.
The team’s incredible regular season paved the way for an impressive playoff run which culminated in the program’s first OUA conference championship since 2005.
The playoff drama included a 5-2 OUA quarterfinal win over UOIT, a 1-0 extra time semifinal victory over Guelph, and a 2-0 win over the York, snapping a two-year championship game losing streak to the Lions in the process.
Carleton competed at the 2019 U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship hosted by the Montreal Carabins, where they finished in 4th place. Carleton defeated AUS champion St. FX, 2-1, in the quarterfinal, followed by a heartbreaking 1-0 extra time defeat at the hands of UQTR in the semifinal. The season ended with a 2-1 defeat to the Cape Breton Capers in the Bronze medal match.
The Ravens will host this season’s U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship at the Ravens’ Perch from November 18-22, 2021. The Ravens have hosted nationals three times in the past, including the 1984, 2002 and 2008 versions.
Carleton last medalled at nationals in 2018, earning bronze with a 3-0 victory over the Trinity Western Spartans. The medal was the first for the Ravens program since winning silver back in 2002.
Heading into the 2021 season, the Ravens have qualified for the past three editions of the U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championship, including 2017, 2018 and 2019. With experience on their side, the Ravens will feel confident matching up against the nation’s top teams to Ottawa this November.
The Ravens will also relish the opportunity of competing for a national title in front of their loyal and boisterous supporters from the Kick It To Bronson Crew. Over the past three seasons, the men’s soccer team has put together a combined 25-2-1 regular season (21-1-1) and playoff record (4-1) at the Ravens’ Perch.
Carleton will be led up front by forward Gabriel Bitar (Ottawa, Ont.), the 2017 U SPORTS Rookie of the Year and First Team All-Canadian. Adding depth to the attack are experienced forwards in Jimi Aribido (Port Harcourt, Nigeria), Jeremy Aweya (Kanata, Ont.) and Junior Asare (Ottawa, Ont.).
In the midfield, Carleton will be led by midfield maestro Dario Conte (Ottawa, Ont.), who has captured OUA East MVP honours the past two seasons (2018 & 2019). Joining Conte is fourth-year playmaker and 2019 OUA All-Star Ricky Comba (Ottawa, Ont.), who contributed four regular season goals in the last season.
The Ravens will have a different look across the back as many of the team’s defensive stars from the past few seasons have moved on. Returning are third-year players Tareq Hamad (Dhahran, KSA), Mitchell O’Brien (Chelsea, Que.) and sophomore Sean Kim (Richmond Hill, Ont.). Second-year goaltender Kyle Potter (Ottawa, Ont.) and rookie Tyler David (Hawkesbury, Ont.) will be vying for playing time between the sticks.
Veterans Cristopher Malekos, Stefan Karajovanovic, and Tony Mikhael have all moved on from the team having been selected in the 2021 CPL – U SPORTS Draft last January. Also gone is keeper Nick Jeffs, who backstopped the Ravens to three straight national championship tournament appearances.
Kwesi Loney returns for his sixth season as head coach of the Carleton Ravens. Loney, the 2019 U SPORTS Coach of the Year and three-time OUA Coach of the Year (2017-2019), will have a deep arsenal of talent at his disposal having successfully recruited many of Ottawa’s top young players over the past few years.
“Being off for a year and a half has led to many changes, but the majority of our core remains intact, and with a good amount of locally based players, we’ve been fortunate to stick together and train during the pandemic (while following all safety protocol).”
“We’ve been able to maintain a strong and seasoned roster ahead of this year. We’ve got an experienced group because we’ve been able to play at the national level the past three seasons. This year we want to take one game at a time and appreciate being able to compete again. We are excited to have the opportunity to compete for a national title in front of family, friends and student body at the end of the season in November.”
“Although we’re hosting nationals this year, our objective is to qualify for nationals through the conference berth. We still want to earn our keep and gain the respect of the OUA and the nation and be there on our own merit. The feather in the cap is that we get to play at home in our environment and in front of our fans.”