Five-year dream devastated
MONTRÉAL, Que. — Heather Malizia shuffled out of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks’ temporary dressing room set up for them at Percival Molson Stadium in Montréal on Thursday.
The fifth-year had just experienced perhaps the most mind-numbing game of her young career, but the midfielder wiped back the tears still wet on her cheeks, and looked into the cameras and microphones.
And she tried to put into words what her coaches and teammates couldn’t.
“I think it’s extremely disappointing,” started Malizia. “I think we played well all year. I don’t even know what to say… I can’t even think straight right now.”
After the Hawks’ 2-1 tournament-opening penalty-kicks loss to the Montréal Carabins, the veteran knew what this moment meant to a team whose core has been together for the majority of the past five years.
Laurier was knocked out.
In what was supposed to be a weekend of triumph, redemption and retribution, the Golden Hawks could only watch in disbelief as their incredible efforts of their 2011 season (a 12-2 record, and a team-record 36 goals-scored) evaporated before their eyes and the Carabins celebrate their come-from-behind win in front of them.
It was all following the proper script until three minutes remaining in the match on Thursday.
Malizia had finally beaten the stifling and suffocating backline of the Carabins in the 58th minute when she drilled a bouncing ball on net after it found its way to the shifty midfielder who specializes in beating players one-on-one.
The ball hit a Carabins’ defender’s head and deflected past Montréal goaltender Martine Julien for the 1-0 strike.
Then, disaster struck.
The Carabins scored off a strike from Éva Thouvenot-Hébert who headed a shot from Véronique Maranda into the Hawks’ net to tie the game.
Extra time solved nothing and in the penalty shot contest, Alyssa Lagonia and Sadie Anderson both had their shots stopped by Julien before Tania Pedron, Becca Isaacs and Kelsey Tikka scored for Laurier.
But the Carabins scored on all four of their shots to win the game and advance, where they would claim the CIS silver medal after losing in the final to the Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) champions, Queen’s (the Gaels also beat Laurier in the OUA finals).
And like it came up in the OUA finals, officiating was called into question.
“You have 24 girls [in the dressing room] bawling their eyes out who deserved a much better fate,” said head coach MacLean after the loss. “I think [the game] was taken out of our hands a little bit by some external issues.”
On three plays in particular, the soccer Hawks felt they deserved a whistle. The first was a jumping, sprawling kick by Montréal’s Emmanuelle Béliveau-Labrecque on Lagonia which brought the star midfielder to the turf.
The next was the bringing-down of forward Julia Marchese as she lunged for a loose ball in front of an empty net, and the last was a potential offside on the Carabins’ tying marker.
MacLean sat out the team’s last game, a 1-0 consolation semi-final loss on Friday due to a suspension for comments made about OUA officiating. The squad lost to Trinity Western University, outplaying the Spartans.
“I don’t think that they scored a legitimate goal,” said MacLean of Montréal’s tying marker. “We were trying to seal the game [with minutes remaining] and I think they did a good job of that but as [the game] was going into overtime… [Their goal] took the wind out of our sails.”
In both games, the Hawks outmaneuvered and held the majority of the game’s possession against the Carabins and the Spartans, but the team just couldn’t finish.
Pedron, Anderson, Malizia, Emily Brown and keeper Mal Woeller shone for Laurier with Marchese and Kelsey Tikka having admirable showings as well.
“Forget about soccer,” said MacLean. “You just talk about their character off the field… They’re the epitome of a team. They live and breathe for soccer and they’ll die for each other… I’m just devastated for them.”
With the season over, the team will graduate Woeller, Malizia, Anderson, Pedron, Lagonia, Isaacs, Marchese and Nicole Currie.
“It’s a terrible feeling knowing that the shootout is going to determine the winner of the game,” said Malizia.
Then, the Burlington native trudged back to the room and attempted to digest the last weekend she’d share with her teammates.