UQTR, Ravens stars clash in U SPORTS, but share CPL draft dream

MONTREAL – Gabriel Wiethaeuper-Balbinotti dropped to his knees, screamed, quickly rose and turned to pump up the traveling Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières crowd in French … and then English.

The sort of anxious, mile-a-minute moment only seen by soccer players after winning a big game – like Friday’s U SPORTS Championship semi-final against national powerhouse Carleton.

Wiethaeuper-Balbanotti, a potential pick in Monday’s CPL-U SPORTS Draft, scored the extra-time winner – with CPL coaches watching from the stands – on an underdog team.

“It’s the first time our school has gone to the final to the championship,” Wiethaeuper-Balbinotti said moments after the fury of motions and emotions. “First time I got in the lockerroom I knew it was special. Even though we’d never gone [to the championship].”

The 21-year-old former Montreal Impact youth product is just freshman at UQTR, electing to go to school after a bit-part 2018 with Ottawa Fury – a move he credits to his revival and, consequently, attention from CPL clubs.

“I’ve had a rough couple years, soccer-wise,” the forward continued. “These coaches have really revived my career – it’s all thanks to the coaches so I’m fighting for them and I’m fighting for my teammates.”

UQTR booked their spot in the Final on Sunday, a day before the CPL-U SPORTS Draft, against hosts University of Montreal. What if scores the winner again? Does a draft selection follow?

“I have no idea, I can’t control that – all I can do is get the ring. After that, it’s out of my control.”

UQTR's Gabriel Wiethaeuper-Balbinotti. (James Hajjar).
UQTR’s Gabriel Wiethaeuper-Balbinotti. (James Hajjar).

On the other end of this semi-final, Carlton’s Stefan Karajovanovic tells a similar story … save for the victory celebration.

A top attacking prospect ahead of Monday’s draft, the 20-year-old is coming off an eight-goal 2019 in with the Ravens – good enough for a goal-a-match over three years.

“It’s exciting,” Karajovanovic told about being selected. “I feel like I am ready. I’ve played with players that are pros or past pros with Montreal Impact. We’ll just go with the flow and see what happens.”

Karajovanovic and 2018 CPL-U SPORTS first overall selection Gabriel Bitar scored for the Ravens in the quarterfinals. Both dynamic, quick-thinking attackers are on the radar for a crack with a professional team in 2020.

Up next? A bronze medal match with Cape Breton – another program with several potential U SPORTS selections – before the Draft on Monday.

“I wasn’t thinking about [the draft] going into these games. I just wanted to do the best I could to help the team.

“If it happens, I’ll be happy.” will be in Montreal for the entire 2019 U SPORTS National Championships ahead of the 2019 CPL-U SPORTS Draft on Monday, Nov. 11. Stay tuned for more features, interviews, and a full day of draft coverage.