MRU Cougars set for playoffs after historic season
By Daniel Khavkin, Sports Editor
Summer’s weather has turned grey and with fall in full swing, it’s that time when the Mount Royal men’s soccer squad rev up for their fifth consecutive playoff appearance.
“This year was special,” says Cougars head coach Ryan Gyaki.
The 2019 Canada West season proved to be the most successful since the USPORTS transition in 2012.
The Cougars finished the regular season 9-4-1 while locking up a division title for the first time in their time competing at the university level.
Mount Royal mainly carries positives into their Canada West home quarter-finals matchup against Thompson Rivers, on Oct. 26.
“Coaching dedicated players is always enjoyable,” Gyaki says.
The Cougars nished the season undefeated at home, boasting a 6-0-1 record while inside the friendly confines of Mount Royal Stadium Field.
Opening the season with three home games on the schedule allowed for the squad to settle and start off on the right foot.
“It gave us a nice rhythm, it created a good environment which brought excitement and joy to open our season.”
Losing in B.C. after opening the season with five consecutive wins brought a change in the team despite losing their first two games.
“We learned we’re not invincible,” Gyaki says. “I’ve never once walked off the field upset with our performance.”
Potential Canada West rookie of the year Dane Domic, had a monsterous debut campaign for the navy and white, scoring six goals while racking up eight assists which put him second in all of Canada West in the point scoring race.
‘Magic’ Moe El-Gandour didn’t show a single sign of the sophomore slump, leading MRU in goals with seven while also contributing four assists.
His 11 points put him third behind teammate Domic.
Between the posts, second-year goalkeeper Kyran Valley held the third lowest goals against average with .81, allowing the least amount of goals for a starting goalie, conceding nine goals during 13 starts, while tallying a Canada West high 990 minutes of game time with three clean sheets to his name.
For the other netminders, Sterling Kerr picked up wins in both of his rst MRU starts including a clean shot during the 5-0 rout of Trinity Western and rookie Fabian Bunk, appeared in an MRU kit twice in his rookie campaign.
“It’s the best depth we’ve ever had. We brought guys on the field 20 minutes at a time or have guys who saw no play time fit right in,” Gyaki notes.
“We had more rhythm across the board. From the coaching staff, the medical team who supported the players to perform on the eld … we soaked in the celebrations on the eld but it wasn’t just because of the players. Lots goes on behind the scenes.”