A game away from the gold medal match at one point, the Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) Eagles eventually placed fifth at the eight-team Canadian Colleges Athletic Association men’s soccer championships last week in Saint-Lambert, Quebec.
The Eagles sandwiched two wins around a pair of losses, and while a higher finish was within reach, were satisfied with the result at their first-ever appearance at a national tournament.
“Fifth place in Canada is nothing to be shy about,” said KPU head coach Srdjan Djekanovic. “It was an amazing experience these student-athletes will never forget.”
One of the three wild-card teams in the tournament and seeded seventh in the knock-out competition, the Eagles upset the Alberta champion Keyano Huskies of Fort McMurray 2-1 in a quarterfinal match last Wednesday evening. Nawaf Binsaleh scored on a penalty shot in the seventh minute, then Mateo Serka scored the winner in the 79th minute.
KPU then lost a semifinal match 5-1 to the B.C. champion Capilano Blues on Thursday in a rematch of the PACWEST (Pacific Western Athletic Conference) final, also won by Capilano. Binsaleh netted his second goal of the tournament against the Blues.
KPU dropped a 2-0 decision to the host Champlain Cavaliers on Friday. Playing Keyano once again Saturday morning, the Eagles closed out their tournament with a 1-0 victory on a goal by Ryan Arthur.
Binsaleh was named to the tournament all-star team.
“I am proud and honoured to have had an opportunity to coach these student-athletes,” said Djekanovic, who coached a team with 15 first-year players on the roster, the most in the national tournament.
“I took over a failing program in 2013, and we have taken it to the point where nationally we are no t only recognized for being a top soccer program in the country, but also one of the most successful academically.”
The Eagles were 6-5-4 (win-loss-tied) in PACWEST league play, placing fourth in the regular season. They upset the first-place Douglas College Royals 3-2 in overtime in a semifinal game, before losing the championship game 2-0 to Capilano.