University of Toronto forward Nirun Sivananthan, far-left, and teammates line-up at Varsity Stadium on Sunday before kicking off their second game in less than 24 hours.

Busy schedule causes concern for Varsity Blues

University of Toronto men's soccer team often plays two days in a row

On Saturday at around 5 p.m., Nirun Sivananthan left the varsity soccer field in Peterborough with the match-ball after his hat-trick contributed to a 5-0 trouncing of Trent University.

Less than 24 hours later, the University of Toronto striker took the pitch at Varsity Stadium as the home side faced the Nipissing Lakers in a 2:15 p.m. kickoff.

A turnaround unimaginable for a professional soccer player but unavoidable in Canada’s largest intercollegiate sport conference, the OUA (Ontario University Athletics).

“It’s tough,” said Sivananthan, now in his fourth year as a Blue. “It was good yesterday because we scored early and it was good to rest some players.”

Nirun Sivananthan scored a hat-trick on Saturday but was on the fringes of Sunday's home matchup versus the Nipissing Lakers.
Nirun Sivananthan, centre, scored a hat-trick on Saturday but was on the fringes of Sunday’s home matchup versus the Nipissing Lakers.  (CIARAN BREEN/TORONTO OBSERVER)

The Brampton native had netted all three of his goals against the Excalibur by the 38th minute, allowing Anthony Capotosto to make some changes with an eye on the following day’s game. However, for the Toronto head coach, celebrating his 10th year in charge, the scheduling is not ideal.

“In my personal opinion it’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Capotosto, after watching his side struggle but eventually break down Nipissing in a 3-0 victory Sunday. “It takes a lot out of our players and as you saw we made six substitutions because we needed to get fresh bodies out there.”

The OUA men’s soccer championship is divided into two nine-team conferences, based on geography, but the province still presents spatial challenges, particularly when faced with time pressures.

“All teams are required to play back-to-back games as part of the OUA schedule,” said Wally Gabler, OUA Director of Sports Operations. “This is due to the fact that we play 16 games in 9 weeks and due to travel, mid-week games are not always possible.”

Indeed, the Toronto collegiate side have twice hosted weekend double-headers at Varsity Stadium this season in addition to a two-day trip to Kingston, where they played Queen’s and Royal Military College.

“It’s hard, especially if you get 90 minutes on the Saturday,” said Blues midfielder Harry Michelis, who missed an open goal against Nipissing before redeeming himself with an assist for the breakthrough goal in the second half. “To come back with hardly any time to recover and play another 90, it’s tough.

“The good thing is, this year, we have more rotation in the team, more squad depth so it allows some of the players to get more rest.”

Sivananthan, who had a frustrating day in front of goal following his Peterborough heroics, is similarly charged with pragmatic optimism.

“I think we’re good this season. Looking better than last, a lot more organized, more disciplined,” said the striker who has helped his team to a five-game winning streak. “I think we can go a long way this season.”