On a day when the Men’s Varsity Blues soccer team struggled to break down a stubborn Nipissing Lakers, their backline came up with clinical plays in a 3-0 victory at Varsity Stadium.
Defenders Nikola Stakic and John Bowyer both highlighted on the scoresheet, sandwiching a captain’s goal by Lukas MacNaughton.
The decisive goal arrived in the 69th minute, when Stakic got on the end of a flick from Harry Michelis, touching the ball home from less than a yard. Michelis joked after the game that his rookie teammate hijacked his goal-bound effort but Stakic was mature in his post-match thoughts.
“It’s a great feeling getting a clean sheet and getting the win, especially the defenders,” said the six-foot Scarborough native. “But it doesn’t matter who scores the goals, who’s doing anything as long as we keep getting wins.”
— U of T Varsity Blues (@Varsity_Blues) October 2, 2016
Returning home from a four-game road swing, rounded off by a 5-0 win at Trent Excalibur, the win on Sunday extended the Toronto’s winning streak to five.
Kick-off at Varsity Stadium was delayed by 20 minutes due to the late arrival of the visitors from North Bay but by the time the referee blew her whistle to start proceedings, the dark morning clouds had cleared to provide glorious playing conditions.
Half an hour in, Nipissing’s season-leading scorer Ryan Roy was forced off by injury, one of a number of flash points in a feisty affair that saw the home-side head for half-time refreshments feeling frustrated.
Despite dominating possession and outshooting the Lakers 17-5, Toronto toiled for long periods in the face of Nipissing’s low block strategy. Blues head coach Anthony Capotosto acknowledged his side’s first half trouble.
“We made an adjustment and moved to a 3-5-2 in the second half,” said Capotosto, who is celebrating his 10th year in charge. “We asked our fullbacks to push high and wide to create a little bit more space underneath.
“We needed that one goal to unlock things and they had no choice but to come out in the end.”
With Carleton drawing away to Queen’s, the three points moves Toronto into joint-second place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Eastern Conference with their Ottawa rivals.
Both sit seven points adrift of high-flying Ryerson, 2-0 winners on Sunday at Laurentian and remaining on course for a perfect season.
Blues captain MacNaughton orchestrated the play all afternoon and was personally rewarded in the 82nd minute when he powered a header from a corner past the busy Grainger Munro in the Lakers goal.
Substitute Bowyer jumped on a rebound in injury time to round off the victory.
At the other end, Toronto goalkeeper Mark Rogal sent the opposition home goalless for the seventh time this season, a province best for clean sheets.
The Lakers have now lost three on the bounce, and remain second from bottom in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Eastern Conference.
Blues will remain at Varsity Stadium for back-to-back matches with the RMC Paladins and Queen’s Gaels next Saturday and Sunday.