VANCOUVER – Gabriel Bitar's second two-goal performance of the U SPORTS Men's Soccer Championship helped the Carleton Ravens claim the bronze medal with a 3-0 win over Trinity Western Spartans on Sunday afternoon.
Bitar's brace highlighted a dominant performance from the Ravens overall, as they directed 23 shots at the Spartans goal, 12 of which made their way to TWU keeper Sebastian Colyn (Langley, B.C.).
The loss for the Spartans sees TWU come up just short of the U SPORTS podium in their first trip to the national championship tournament since 2009. The Spartans were playing in the bronze medal match after beating York in the quarter-finals but losing to Montreal in the semifinals.
After winning Canada West silver, the Spartans fell shy of nabbing what would have been their fifth U SPORTS medal in program history. TWU also earned bronze medals in 2005 and 2009 and silver in 2006 and 2008.
The medal was the first for the Ravens program since winning silver back in 2002.
Stefan Karajovanovic and Bitar had two golden opportunities to get Carleton on the board just past the five-minute mark, as Karajovanovic raced onto an errant pass from Caleb Johnson (Strathmore, Alta.) deep in Spartans territory and tested Colyn with a low bullet. Gathering the rebound in open space, Bitar misfired and sailed one past the right post.
In the 25th minute, the ever-opportunistic Bitar struck off a broken play. Bitar picked up the loose ball in stride and made a strong move into the box before delivering a perfect strike to open the scoring.
A terrific defensive effort from Bitar kept the kept the Ravens up 1-0 in the 40th minute. On a cross from Leighton Johnson (Strathmore), the ball eventually pinged around to the head of his brother Caleb, and Bitar had to clear the ball out of the danger area with a well-timed volley.
Bitar made his presence felt again going forward early in the second half, as the Ravens attacker weaved his way through two Spartan defenders and broke in alone on Colyn. Only a diving effort from the second-year keeper denied Bitar a brace.
Christopher Malekos delivered the insurance marker with a goal in the 65th. With the ball in the air following an attempt on goal from Karajovanovic and block from the Spartans backline, Malekos twisted and unleashed a back-heel volley that found its way into the top part of the Trinity Western goal.
Bitar ended any potential comeback hopes less than three minutes later, as he pounced on a misplayed ball from Spartans defender Noah Kroeker (Calgary), taking the ball with pace down the left flank before beating Colyn clean.
Despite a flurry of attempts late in the contest to try and break the clean sheet, Trinity Western couldn't get the ball through Ravens keeper Nick Jeffs.
TWU head coach – Mike Shearon
"This group is a special group and they've worked so hard. Obviously you want to be in a different game and obviously you want to win a medal at the end, but we've talked a lot about us being about more than just needing to win. We're a group that has our identities in the right place and soccer is just a vehicle for us to grow into the people we're created to be. This group has bought into that immensely. These are great young men and they really care about one another and they fight to the end. We did that, but we came up short today. In the end, we'll look back on things and be happy with what we accomplished this year and keep moving forward.
"We played 240 minutes of soccer (going to overtime in their first two games of the tournament) and to come in here and to play a good Carleton team, especially with the amount injuries we had, was a tough thing to do. That's just the reality, but the bottom line is they gave everything they had and that's all we can do."
Carleton head coach – Kwesi Loney
"The day off yesterday really helped out," said. "The tournament's been very tough - a lot of competitive teams out here this weekend. We wanted to come out today and show our quality. We worked really hard all season long to get here, and we thought we took our chances earlier on. We were really happy to be in this match here with a great team in the Trinity Western Spartans, so we're really happy with the result today."
Players of the Game
Carleton: Christopher Malekos
Trinity Western: Domenic Poletto