Eagles defeat Keyano 2-1 in CCAA men's soccer quarter-final

Thu, Nov 12, 2015

by Nick Pevato

The Kwantlen Polytechnic University Eagles men’s soccer team won their first ever CCAA national tournament game when they defeated Keyano College 2-1 on Wednesday evening.

In the opening game, Nawaf Binsaleh (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia) scored on a penalty shot in the seventh minute, while Mateo Serka headed home the eventual winner in the 79th minute.  The Eagles will now move on to face a familiar opponent, the Capilano University Blues, in the national semifinal game tonight at 5:30 p.m. ET/ 2:30 p.m. PT.

“This (win) goes down to the character of our guys,” head coach Srjdan Djekanovic said.  “I think the student-athletes we have on our team are tremendous.” 

KPU was the surprise package going into this week’s tournament.  After a 6-5-4 regular season record and a loss in the Pacific Western Athletic Association championship, they qualified for the CCAA tournament via the wildcard.  The Eagles are a young team with a staggering 15 first-year players on their roster, far more than any other team in the tournament.

On the other hand, Keyano was the second seed in the tournament after a dominant 2015 campaign in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.  The Huskies finished the season with a 9-0-1 mark, and an impressive 43 goals for, while only conceding a mere six.  They are also making a second consecutive trip to the CCAA national championship after their fifth-place finish last year in Toronto. 

Despite the difference in record and past experience, the Eagles showed more poise in the opening minutes of the match.  KPU was awarded a free kick just outside of the box and when that ball was delivered, an Eagles player was tripped somewhere in the crowd of players jostling for position.  It was enough for the referee to point to the penalty spot and up stepped Binsaleh with a chance to take an early lead. 

“I’m normally calm during penalties.  I knew it had to be in the bottom corner to make it difficult for the goalie,” Binsaleh said about his pressure-filled moment.  “I was lucky and I got it.”

The champions of Alberta boasted the triple threat of Rodrigo Wagel Koebsch, Pedro Bianchi and Kyle Cummings, who combined for 32 goals in the 2015 season.  Bianchi was named as one of the 10 All-Canadian selections the previous night.   However, the three prolific scorers had trouble solving the puzzle the KPU defence presented them.  The Eagles’ defenders showed composure and organization, and they kept the Fort McMurray team’s attack at bay.

“Our defence was absolutely brilliant,” Serka said.

Besides some rough tackles made by both teams, the first half ended without any major events, with Binsaleh’s penalty standing as the only goal.

The second half began tentatively for the Eagles as they sought to protect their lead.  The Huskies began to push men forward and kept trying to ignite that offensive spark that scored over 40 goals in league play. 

Finally, Keyano’s star man, Wagel Koebsch, found his opportunity and beat Eagles goalkeeper David Hicks with a hard, low shot in the 72nd minute.  The Brazilian entered the game currently tied for third in Canada with goals and he added another to his already standing 13 tallies.

Not to be outdone, KPU’s leading scorer would have the last say.  Serka, who led the Eagles in regular season goals with five, smashed home a header in the 79th minute.   “It was purely the coach,” the Richmond, B.C. forward said about his instructions to search for the winner.  “He told me we had 13 minutes left and to make something happen.  On the very next play, we got a corner and I went up and got the goal.”

The win for the Eagles now sets up a matchup that has all the intrigue in the world.  At 5:30 p.m. ET/ 2:30 p.m. PT, KPU will meet PACWEST conference rival, Capilano, in a game that is being dubbed the “Battle of British Columbia.”  The teams have met four times prior to today's game.  During the three meetings in the regular season, the series was split as the teams shared a win, loss, and a draw each.  In the PACWEST final, the Blues ultimately defeated the Eagles by a score of 2-0 and were crowned conference champions.  As fate would have it, the teams are on a collision course to meet again and this one is surely the biggest of the lot. 

When asked about the enticing all-British Columbia semifinal, Djekanovic couldn’t help but smile.  “We’re ready.  This one is on the big stage and the boys are excited.”

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has served the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 200,000 learners. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs in business, liberal arts, design, health, science and horticulture, trades and technology, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 120 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, citations and apprenticeships.Learn more at kpu.ca.

Click here for photos of the Eagles game on Flickr.

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Hayley Woodin
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