(VANCOUVER, BC) The UNB Reds run at the 2018 U SPORTS men's soccer championship has come to an end.
The Reds dropped a 1-0 decision to the York Lions in Friday's consolation semi-final round.
"We could've done a lot better at this tournament," said fourth-year striker Dan Walker (Fredericton, NB). "I know this group, I know what we're capable of and it's just unfortunate."
After a 3-0 loss to Montreal in Thursday's quarter-final round, the Reds looked much better Friday.
Despite being outsized by the Lions, they were able to control their share of the play and create scoring opportunities.
"I thought we looked better," said Reds head coach Miles Pinsent. "We possessed the ball and out of that possession we had some chances on goal. I was pleased with the effort. It's difficult to come back less than 24 hours after being eliminated from medal contention, but I thought the boys showed up and wanted to play today."
The Lions scored the game's only goal just past the mid-way point of the first half.
In the 33rd minute, Chris Jacovou (Richmond Hill, ON) took a ball that was chipped over UNB's back line and managed to stay on side. He fired a high shot, beating a leaping Barker, to give York a 1-0 lead.
Moments later, York launched another strike from short distance, but this time Barker was able to get a hand on the ball and deflect it away.
The Reds then fashioned some opportunities of their own, including one where Walker hit a shot from just outside the 18-yard box, sending the ball just wide of the Lions net.
The teams went to the half with York up 1-0, a lead they'd hold through full time, despite more chances for UNB.
"Right now, there's just a lot of disappointment," said Pinsent. "The boys are frustrated with not playing their best at the most important time of the season."
Pinsent was also quick to note that his team, which came to Vancouver directly from the Atlantic University Sport championship, had just played its fifth game in nine days.
"There's definitely a toll," he said. "It's taken a toll and it was prevalent in today's game, you could see that we weren't first to the ball, we weren't quick enough shutting down spaces defensively."
As the third place team in the AUS, UNB had to play three games at the conference championship tournament. They missed out on a first round bye by a single regular season point.
"It's five games in a short amount of time," said Walker. "Your legs are going to be tired, your emotions are going to be very high, very low at times. I think one less game could really help us in the future."
Disappointed with their season coming to an end, the team is optimistic about the future.
Only keeper Kristian D'Amore (Mississauga, ON) is due to graduate.
"Overall, I was quite pleased with the season considering all the new faces," said Pinsent. "It was a good stepping stone. We don't graduate anyone necessarily, so we'll continue to grow from here and hopefully be that one or two goals better next season, when it counts."
Walker says a solid performance against York is a sign of what's to come.
"I thought that second half we played really well against a very strong team," he said. "There were positives and we'll keep building and we'll be back."
RECAP BY: Andy Campbell/UNB Athletics
PHOTOS BY: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds