Canadian champions!

The Durham Lords won the Canadian colleges men's soccer championship Saturday at Vaso's Field. Photo credit: Durham Athletics

The Durham Lords men’s soccer team has won its first Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) gold medal.

The Lords beat the Vancouver Island University Mariners 3-2 in a thrilling final at Vaso’s Field Saturday.

“It’s phenomenal for the kids, for the young men that are on the team,” said Lords men’s soccer coach Dave Ashfield.

“Everything is about them, what we do here is about the student-athlete, so for them to be able to win a gold medal is just phenomenal.”

On a biting cold Saturday, on home soil, the Lords had all the support they could ask for – the stands were packed. Some fans were covering themselves with blankets to keep themselves warm.

In program history, the Lords had previously won bronze medals in 1987 and 1999. This was Durham’s first time hosting the finals since 1999.

“It was really important for us to come out and show our fans that we could win the grand prize at home,” says Lords’ forward Joshua Lee.

The Lords came up with the first two punches as they scored at the 17th and 20th minute, goals from Lee and Ryan Cullen. They went into halftime with a 2-0 advantage, but it was a game once again when Mariners’ defender Cole Senchar made it 2-1 at the 60th minute.

In front of a boisterous, rowdy crowd, the Lords reclaimed a two-goal lead from a free kick goal by Jose Flores. The Mariners continued to push and were able to put the game back within one courtesy of a goal at the 81st minute from forward Michael Heppelle.

The Lords had to defend hard for the rest of the game, as the final whistle blew they were all celebrating, fans came running onto the field to celebrate. Players were hugging each other, some were dancing.

Coach Ashfield had a different celebration plan.

“I might just relax with family and friends, I think their might be some libations up there for me to have but it’s a wonderful experience for the guys so they could celebrate whatever way they want,” he said.

At the championship ceremony, all the teams in the tournament gathered on the field. The Champlain Saint-Lambert Cavaliers were handed their bronze medals, the Mariners were handed the silver medals and the newest champion Lords were handed the gold medals along with their first CCAA champions banner.

Durham College athletic director Ken Babcock handed Durham goalkeeper Kevon Grant the championship trophy and the Lords were all screaming, jumping, dancing and singing.

“It’s big what we’ve accomplished and I’m glad that I was a part of the first team to win the CCAA gold medal,” says Lee, who was named championship MVP.

Lee, Cullen and Grant, along with teammates Nick Payne and Colin Reilly were named to the championship all-star team.

The Lords officially conclude their season with an overall record of 11 wins and two losses.

This is Durham’s second national sports title in less than a month as the men’s baseball team won the Canadian championship in October.