With friends and family in the stands cheering, Nelson's Ryan Lewis and the Thompson Rivers WolfPack men's soccer squad captured the U SPORTS Championship Sunday in Kamloops.
The WolfPack defeated the UBC Thunderbirds 2-1in shootout in front of 2400 fans at Hillside Stadium Sunday evening to earn the first U SPORTS National Championship in program and school history.
"I'm glad that we can be the standard-bearer and bring this title home because it shows that you can get it done at a small school," said WolfPack head coach John Antulov.
"I've believed that since day one when I took over, that just because you're at a small school doesn't mean you can't get it done."
The Thompson Rivers WolfPack were clutch throughout the tournament.
In three games at the U SPORTS Men's Soccer Championship, TRU produced three shootouts and three WolfPack wins
Kamloops product Alesandro Comita scored in extra time for TRU while brother Domenico knocked in the game-winning penalty.
For Domenico, scoring the game-winning goal is the stuff of movies. The defender was in the stands for the WolfPack's quarter-final and semifinal games, leading the crowd in chants over a megaphone before getting called into the lineup tonight due to injury.
"The Comita boys are unbelievable kids, they are the ultimate team guys," said Antulov.
"Domenico could have put his head down with him not playing, but he comes in, plays fantastic and hits the winning penalty kick, it just shows his character."
A back-and-forth game throughout regulation shifted in UBC's favour in the 69th minute when the WolfPack were reduced to ten men after a TRU player picked up his second yellow card.
"The guys never put their head down, they just battling and fought. They looked at each other and said let's be resilient," said Antulov. "We displayed dogged defending all the way through and for us to defend the way we did one man down against a team that scores the way they do just shows unbelievable character."
TRU was able to run out the 90 minutes to send the game to extra time and then took the lead against all odds with five minutes left in the first overtime frame.
Jost Hausendorf went on a great solo run and played a cross in that Alesandro Comita sent into the back of the net for the first goal of the game.
The Thunderbirds refused to go away without a fight however and the captain Daniel Kaiser knotted the game back up with just five minutes left to play.
Thomas Gardner sent a free-kick into the box that Kaiser perfectly flicked into the back of the WolfPack net.
Needing a shootout victory at both the quarter-final and semifinal stages of the tournament, TRU took that high-pressure experience and used it to their advantage.
TRU Goalkeeper Jackson Gardner made a pair of stops, five members of TRU scored from the penalty spot including Domenico Comita with the all-important winner in the seventh round of the shootout to send TRU to the historic victory.
The WolfPack opened the tournament by stopping McMaster Marauders 2-1 in shootout before upsetting Cape Breton Capers 3-2 in semi final action Friday.
Lewis, in his second season at TRU, earned second-team Allstar recognition as the Nelson Soccer star finished the season with seven goals. The goal total moved Lewis into a tied for fifth in the single-season program record books.
— With files from TRU