TORONTO - Rookie Jamie Baker exploded on Wednesday evening in the first round of the OUA playoffs, notching four goals to lead the Ryerson Rams men's soccer team to a dominating 5-0 triumph over the Trent Excalibur on Eugene Melnyk Sports Field at St. Michael's College School.
The victory sets up an OUA East semi-final match between the Rams and the CIS No. 8-ranked Toronto Varsity Blues.
Baker (Aurora, Ont.), who notched six goals in the regular season for the Rams, was unstoppable throughout the evening, wreaking havoc on the Excalibur backline. Aaryon Gaeeni (Toronto) earned the shutout in net for the Rams, who have defeated Trent three times in the last four seasons in the first round post-season match-up.
"Trent's an extremely hard working team," said Associate Coach Filip Prostran. "Today they hit two posts. We seem to get all the bounces against them, but I thought the guys played well."
Things could have been much worse for the Excalibur, as the Rams regular season leading scorer Viktor Anastasov (Toronto) had some uncharacteristic misses throughout the contest. After topping the OUA East division scoring leaders with 12 markers throughout the year, Anastasov was stymied by the Trent keeper on a number of occasions while also missing the target on others in the first half.
The Rams were on Trent from the start, and after a number of great opportunities Vince D'Elia opened the scoring in the 35th minute, finishing the ball into the low right corner of the goal after an initial cross.
The Excalibur didn't help their own cause, as moments after the marker Eli Adanci was sent off with a red card after a hard foul on Ashkan Mahboubi (Pickering, Ont.).
The Rams took full advantage a short time later. An incredible passing play down the left flank started when D'Elia (Vaughan, Ont.) found Anastasov, who feathered the ball diagonally to Adrian Mancini. The Richmond Hill, Ont. native then sent a paced ball across the goal mouth to Baker, who deflected it to the back of the net, doubling the Ryerson advantage.
Trent did have a chance to come within one early in the second when a shot that looked harmless at the onset froze Gaeeni. The third-year keeper watched the ball ring off the left goal post, and then quickly scooped up the rebound as the Rams were fortunate to keep the two-goal cushion.
However, from that point on it was the Jamie Baker show. Anastasov sent the 6'0'' striker on goal with a nice through ball in the 57th minute, and after eluding two defenders and the keeper, Baker had a gaping net to tally his second.
Baker completed his hat-trick 10 minutes later, and then added a fourth with three minutes to go until full-time after deflecting a great cross from Sebastian Novais (Oakville, Ont.) down the left wing.
Waiting in the wings for the Rams is their downtown rival, the Varsity Blues. After a last-minute header by D'Elia earned Ryerson a tie against Toronto in their first meeting back in September, the defending OUA champions sent a strong message on their home field, pounding the Rams 4-0 at Varsity Centre two weekends ago.
"Toronto's one of the best (university) teams I've seen in Canada," stated Prostran. "They are very well-organized and well-coached."
The Blues are coming off a year where they took home the conference banner only to lose in the CIS semi-finals and settle for a fourth-place finish in the country, and Prostran knows Sunday's match will require nothing less than a top performance from the Rams to get a result.
"It's going to take our best effort, our best game of the year to beat them," he said.
The winner of the match qualifies for the OUA Final Four Weekend.
Sunday's contest will take place at 3:15 p.m. just a few blocks north of Ryerson University at Varsity Centre within the U of T campus.
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