Concordia 2, UQAM 1: Playoff Race Begins for Stingers Men’s Soccer
Simon Spénard-Lapierre’s Late Game Winner Brings Stingers Within Striking Distance of Postseason
During the 2013-2014 season, the Concordia Stingers men’s soccer team—while tied on points to McGill—missed out on the playoffs due to a tie-break. Since that year, they haven’t gotten anywhere near the playoffs. Until now.
Sunday afternoon’s dramatic 2-1 win over the Université de Québec à Montréal’s Citadins now means that the Stingers are only a single point away from a postseason berth. Given their losses to playoff contenders Université Laval and McGill in the last two games, a win was crucial going into this matchup.
“The last two games ended with unfortunate results, but everyone got behind the idea that this is a new game and that it was a must-win,” said assistant coach Kouyabe Ignegongba. “The best teams always find ways to get results and that’s what we showed today.”
The game started off quick yet conservative, with both teams trading possession. While neither of them giving each other an inch to operate, they knew that dropping points was not an option—as there are currently four teams vying for the final two playoff spots.
The first breakthrough happened in the fifty-eighth minute after Peter Campbell drilled the ball into the bottom left corner from outside the box to give the Stingers a much-needed lead.
However, the lead didn’t last long as just four minutes later, Citadins Forward Mohamed Saidi found himself alone in front of the goal and casually chipped one past goaltender Julian Petrilli.
With a draw being far more detrimental to the Stingers’ playoff hopes than those of their opponents, they pushed relentlessly for a go-ahead goal and, as has been the case for most of the season, it came as late as possible.
Sean Holmes, who has played a massive role anchoring the midfield all season came on in the seventieth minute and made an immediate impact.
A mere 18 minutes after his entrance, he spotted a run from rookie forward Simon Spénard-Lapierre. An inch-perfect ball into space followed and the rookie made no mistake.
“We kind of made eye contact and I knew exactly what to do from there,” said Spénard-Lapierre.
“It was a really nice ball and everything after that is just practice. I saw the keeper come out and kept it really simple.”
Should the Stingers end up by making the playoffs, this goal will definitely stand out as one of the most crucial moments of the season.
That being said, the road ahead is certainly not an easy one.
While they are hosting the winless Université de Sherbrooke next week, they’ll be going up against Université de Montréal and Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières after that, who are in first and second place respectively.
However, Captain and centre-back Lester Gariba is not looking to roll over and give up, despite a challenging end to the year.
“Every game is going to be a playoff game from here on out and we need to keep producing good results,” said Gariba after a strong defensive effort from all 11 players.“We got points from the UdeM game and we showed that we’re not a team that just concedes defeat. We’re here to surprise a lot of people.”
This is the strongest team Concordia has fielded in years and if they manage to keep their focus, their first playoff berth in six years could be well on its way.
“We addressed a lot of the issues we had last year and brought in the right personnel,” said Ignegongba. “We switched up our recruitment strategy and we added a lot more depth and players that fit into the identity we want here in the program.”
The Stingers begin their final push for the playoffs by hosting the Université de Sherbrooke Vert et Or on Friday at 8:15 at Concordia Stadium.