Bruins battle adversity and win National Championship

Chris Di Vizio-Mendes buries the game-winning penalty kick to secure Sheridan's spot as No.1 in the nation.

Chris Di Vizio-Mendes buries the game-winning penalty kick to secure Sheridan’s spot as No.1 in the nation. (Photography by Sam Taskie / The Sheridan Sun)


Talk about a storybook ending.

Sheridan men’s soccer team beat the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners 5-4 in a nail-biting championship final on Saturday that required penalty kicks to decree the victor.

“It felt like a movie almost, and the ending was perfect,” said team captain David Velastegui, who slotted home a penalty kick in the finals. “It’s like a dream come true.”

Hundreds of people were on hand for the rainy gold-medal showdown, including Canadian Men’s National Soccer head coach Benito Floro, in what was a gripping, back-and-forth affair that saw the lead change hands continuously.


“The turning point in the game, for me, was when we took the lead in the second half when the ball came across and we scored a tap-in. I thought that really motivated our kids,” said third-year head coach Andrew Seuradge.

The aforementioned goal, buried by first-year midfielder Khody Ellis, represented the first Bruins lead of the game. They maintained their lead all the way to added time at the end of regulation, only to have their hearts broken when the referee awarded a controversial penalty kick to VIU in the fourth minute of added time.

“I was so mad,” said Seuradge. “But I kept it cool.”

He knew he had to maintain his composure for his team’s sake, and took comfort in the fact that it was “only a tying goal,” not a winning goal.

LUYBEN - BruinsChampionshipExtra time started with a dose of emotion when Sheridan’s Raheem Edwards scored within the first minute and instead of celebrating with teammates, he immediately dashed to the sidelines and embraced his girlfriend with a kiss.

“When I scored, she was the first person I was thinking about. So I went and told her I loved her,” said Edwards, who played a crucial role in nearly every Bruins tally in the game.

The crowd was electric, chanting: “This is our house” to the beat of a snare drum.

It looked as if the win was sealed for the host squad, but a late Mariners goal five minutes before the end of the match hushed the Sheridan faithful, and sentenced the game to be won in penalty kicks.

Each of the teams’ first five shooters converted from the spot, until VIU’s sixth shooter missed wide to the left, past sprawling Bruins goalkeeper and tournament MVP, Daniel Voci. The second-year tender came into the competition after an injury to the starting goalie, Patryk Zapotoczny. Amazingly, Voci had only three league games of experience under his belt.

“I knew I’d be ready if the time came,” said Voci, whose athletic ability and acrobatics were on display the entire tournament. “When it did, I knew I would be able to handle it just like any other game.”

Cue Chris Di Vizio-Mendes, Sheridan’s sixth shooter, who had the game in his hands – or at his foot, rather.

After a deep breath and a determined glare in his eyes, he made no mistake finding the nylon of the net and cemented Sheridan’s place in CCAA history.

Their journey across the cold, wet, arduous path that was this year’s national championships started from the bottom. The double-blue were written off as underdogs. They ranked seventh out of eight teams seeded in the tournament. But the group’s spirit was not deterred as they approached the CCAAs with confidence.

“People doubted us, but we kept pushing,” said Edwards, who won OCAA men’s soccer rookie of the year this year. “What you learn from this is to never give up. Keep going for your goals because you never know what could happen.”