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Early exit for SFU soccer from 2023 NCAA Div. II championships

The Red Leafs were eliminated in the first round, including the women on penalty kicks fresh off their first-ever conference title.
SFU Red Leafs soccer teams were eliminated in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Div. II Championships.

Championship soccer seasons for Simon Fraser University (SFU) came to a sudden stop this week.

The Red Leafs' women's and men's squads were eliminated in the first round of their respective 2023 NCAA Div. II national championships on Thursday, Nov. 16.

The early exit came less than a six days after both sides won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) banners — the first-ever for the women and the eighth for the men.

SFU, fresh off their first-ever GNAC women's trophy, lost 2-0 on penalty kicks to Cal State LA after holding the Golden Eagles to a 0-0 draw through regulation and overtime.

Burnaby sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Loewen kept the red and white in the game until the very end, making four saves and stopping one shot in the shootout.

"We fought really hard and controlled the play for large periods of the match, but unfortunately didn't do enough to break the tie," interim head coach Carlo Basso said following the match. SFU was ranked sixth in the west region of the tournament.

"It always feels worse losing in penalties, but we have to be really proud of what we have accomplished this year."

Six Simon Fraser players stayed on the pitch for the full 110 minutes of the match. The Red Leafs finished its 2023 campaign with a record of 8-5-6, including 5-5-4 in GNAC play.

Meanwhile, the men, ranked seventh in its region, were upset 3-1 by #10 Point Loma Nazarene on Thursday.

SFU held the Sea Lions to a 1-1 draw after the first 45 minutes in the nationals tournament opener, but Point Loma outshot the Red Leafs 11-9 in the second half, scoring on two to claim the victory.

Senior goalkeeper Justyn Sandhu made seven saves on 22 shots in the contest, including 10 on goal.

Niko Papakyriakopoulos, Red Leafs backliner and reigning GNAC men's soccer defensive player of the year, potted the lone marker for SFU in Los Angeles.

The Red Leafs finished 2023 with an 11-5-2 record, including 8-2-1 in GNAC play, winning their first conference title in five years.

Senior forward Devin O'Hea was named the GNAC men's soccer player of the year, logging more than 1,400 minutes, tallying nine multi-point games and a run of seven straight matches with a goal.