League1 Ontario players - past and present - made their presence felt on the Canadian university and college circuit in 2017, ranking among the best in the country.
In Part I of our Best Of 2017 series, check out the impact made by League1 players at the Canadian post-secondary levels.
Stuart Heath (Kingston Clippers/ Cape Breton Capers)
In the USports men's university finals, Cape Breton University (CBU) won gold in penalty kicks over University of Montreal Carabins.
Leading the CBU charge in that match (and for much of the tournament) was once again forward Stuart Heath, an alumnus of League1 after a strong 2014 season with Kingston Clippers. Heath scored a penalty in the USports 2017 final to open the scoring.
And Heath wasn't even the only League1 representative in east-coast based CBU's ranks - freshman forward Mitchell Wong (Toronto Skillz) added further L1O content in the team.
Remarkably, on the college circuit another League1 alumni from Kingston Clippers helped guide his team to a national championship as well. Defender Ryan McCurdy was instrumental in propelling the VIU Mariners to a 1-0 win over Douglas Royals in the 2017 CCAA Men's Soccer National Championship.
Gabriel Bitar (OSU Force/ Carleton Ravens)
League1 players were also among the most-decorated for individual achievements in both USports and CCAA competition.
Carleton University and OSU Force player Gabriel Bitar was named the 2017 Lou Bilek (Rookie Of The Year) Award Winner after leading the nation in goals (16) and coming second in points (18). Bitar was also selected to the USports First XI All-Star list, won the OUA East MVP, the OUA East Rookie-Of-The-Year and was named to the OUA First XI All-Star team.
York University and Woodbridge Strikers forward Cristian Cavallini was also among Canada's most recognized players. Cavallini was a nominee for the most prestigious individual award in Canada, the USports Joe Johnson Memorial Award (Player Of The Year). Cavallini was selected as OUA West MVP and was named to the USports All-Canadian First XI. Finally, Cavallini was third in the country in goals (15).
Durham Lords and Durham United FA player Bruce Cullen was front-and-centre at the college level awards, named a CCAA All-Canadian for guiding the Lords to their first OCAA title and a fifth place finish in the country. Cullen was also named the OCAA Championship MVP.
George Brown College and Oakville Blue Devils forward Filipe Vilela brought his golden touch to the Canadian college circuit and was the 2017 OCAA Top Scorer and named OCAA Men's Overall Rookie Of The Year.
Western University and FC London player Connor Wilson also had a top-notch first year at post-secondary level, winning the OUA Rookie Of The Year (West) award.
Christian Cavallini (Woodbridge Strikers/ York University)
York University teammates and League1 rivals joined each other in the end of season individual stats leader categories as Steve Kloutsouniotis of Vaughan Azzurri was third in the USports assists chart (7) while Woodbridge Strikers keeper Quillan Roberts was second in the country for goals against (4).
League1 players continued to populate the end-of-year lists, with Daniel Gogarty (York University/ Vaughan Azzurri) and Marcus Lees (UNB/ Durham United FA alumni) joining Bitar and Cavallini on the USports All-Canadian First XI list.
The USports Second Team All-Canadian and All-Rookie Team also had significant League1 presence, with Devon Bowyer (University of Toronto/ North Toronto Nitros) and Lukas McNaughton (University of Toronto/ North Toronto Nitros) receiving second team honours, and Connor Wilson (Western University/ FC London), Marko Mandekic (University of Toronto/ TFC III) joining Gabriel Bitar on the All-Rookie Team.
Quillan Roberts (Woodbridge Strikers/ York University)
In the Ontario-based lists, League1 Ontario players flooded the numbers.
At university level, almost half of the total OUA First and Second XI All-Star teams ply their trade in League1:
OUA East First XI = Devon Bowyer (University of Toronto/ North Toronto Nitros), Nikola Stakic (University of Toronto/ Toronto FC III), Lukas McNaughton (University of Toronto/ North Toronto Nitros), Dario Conte (Carleton University/ OSU Force), Marko Mandekic (University of Toronto/ Toronto FC III), Gabriel Bitar (Carleton University/ OSU Force)
OUA East Second XI = Nirun Sivanthan (University of Toronto/ North Toronto Nitros); Nicholas Correa (Laurentian/ Sigma FC); Kenny Lioutas (University of Toronto/ Sigma FC)
OUA West First XI = Daniel Gogarty (York University/ Vaughan Azzurri), DeVante Walker (York University/ Vaughan Azzurri), Cristian Cavallini (York University/ Woodbridge Strikers), Steve Kloutsouniotis (York University/ Vaughan Azzurri); Tahrik Rodrigues (Laurier/ North Toronto Nitros)
OUA West Second XI = Aaron Schneebli (Western University/ FC London), Jonathan Lao (York University/ Vaughan Azzurri), Mohammed Reza Nafar (Western University/ FC London), Dylan Carriero (York University/ Woodbridge Strikers), Braeden Gee (Western University/ FC London); Jonathan Hodge (Western/ FC London)
At college level, nine of the 27 players that received OCAA division All-Star standing kit up for League1 sides in the summer months:
OCAA East - Bruce Cullen (Durham Lords/ Durham United FA), Taejon Mikle-Ryan (Centennial/ Durham United FA),
OCAA Central - Shaquille Agard (George Brown/ Durham United FA), Luca Baldassarre (Humber/ Woodbridge Strikers), Julian Mullin (Humber/ North Mississauga SC), Joshua Portillo (Humber/ Woodbridge Strikers), Gianlucas Scorzafave (Humber/ Sigma), Filipe Vilela (George Brown/ Oakville Blue Devils)
OCAA West - Martin Nyul (Windsor TFC Stars)