The Providence College men entered this past weekend’s soccer matches with two goals in mind; keep the winning streak alive against an always dangerous St. Boniface squad, and show league newcomers, the University of Winnipeg College Wesmen, they will have to fight to earn a win against the defending MCAC champs. By the weekend’s end they were successful in doing both in two character building games, as they mounted a short-handed comeback to beat Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface 3-2, followed by playing the U of W in a tighter match, falling 2-1 in the Wesmen’s inaugural conference match-up.
Saturday’s matinee featured a much-improved Voyageur squad from their 2009 edition. St. Boniface came out flying and took it to Providence early on, as they seemed to finally balance the individual skill they have always shown with a much more disciplined team-oriented mindset.
Midway through the first half the Voyageurs were able to capitalize on this, as a cross was finished with a beautiful header by Mamadou Abasse Diep to put CUSB up 1-nil. The goal seemed to waken the Freemen up as they mounted several promising attacks, but still headed into the half without a goal.
However, Providence was able to earn the tying score early in the second half as they swung together a brilliant switch attack that began with the left-back and ended with Miguel Fictoria finishing a through ball five fluent passes later. The goal sped up the Freemen attack as freshman defender Caleb Thiessen started the engines on the second goal that quickly followed the first. Thiessen sent a clearance ball up field that Fictoria one-timed to Brennan Wiens. Wiens then fired a bullet into the Voyageur net to put the Freemen up 2-1. St. Boniface responded quickly by scoring a goal after the Freemen failed to clear a corner out of the box.
Some strange antics then ensued, as a few questionable calls – and non-calls – finally erupted into an altercation that saw Freemen freshman Norvin Campos sent off with a red, while St. Boniface stayed at full-strength. Providence fought through it and mounted the short-handed comeback with Fictoria feeding a pass through the defense that Mario Giesbrecht chipped over the keeper to earn the Freemen a 3-2 win.
“It was an exciting game,” said Providence head coach Martin Ward following the match.
“Despite a lot of distractions in the game, we showed character to come from behind and win.”
The Freemen followed their come-from-behind victory by hosting a University of Winnipeg squad that is playing in their inaugural season with the MCAC. It was a much anticipated match-up between the defending MCAC champions, and a fiery Wesmen squad that features Manitoba Major Soccer League players, former provincial players, and even a former national team player.
The game opened as many expected with the Wesmen finding three early opportunities, one of which they converted on. The early goal against seemed to settle the Freemen side, and they began playing some of their best soccer of the young season. The Wesmen continued to control play, but Providence displayed great team defense and mounted promising counter-attacks.
Neither side found the back of the net again in the first half, but the second saw a continued defend-to-counter game that saw many chances created.
It wasn’t until late in the half that the Freemen saw their first real scoring opportunity as ‘Super’ Mario Giesbrecht deflected brother Andry’s shot into the back of the net, only to have it called back on an offside.
The Wesmen then produced a shining opportunity of their own as they earned a penalty shot, but freshman keeper Kyle Perry stood tall to the task. The Wesmen earned their second goal of the match shortly after by finishing a counter of their own. However, the Freemen stayed strong to their game plan and were rewarded as Joel Janke popped a brilliant ball over the defense that ‘Super’ Mario finished with a sweet touch to the corner, bringing the Freemen within one.
Providence came close to mounting their second comeback of the weekend with an excellent chance on a corner on the final play of the game. In the end, the Wesmen left with a 2-1 victory in what was one of the most exciting games played on Providence soil in recent memory.
“We knew that the University of Winnipeg was going to be a very tough opponent, but we played our best game of the season so far,” said Coach Ward.
“Every player raised their game, and we learnt how to play well as a team. Even though we lost, it was a good performance, and it’s a game that we can build on for the rest of the season.”
The Freemen return to action on Wednesday, September 22 when they travel to Brandon to face the BSSL’s triple-crown winners, Inspire F.C. in an exhibition match. They will then travel south of the border on Saturday to face NAIA opponent Jamestown College.
Notes: Providence’s Andry Giesbrecht played only fifteen minutes on the weekend due to injury… Thomas Kaethler and Derek Loepky both missed matches with injury… Freshman Norvin Campos sat out Sunday’s match due to a red card infraction issed on Saturday.
By Kaiten Critchlow — Providence College