Hawks prepare for OUA Final Four


(Photo by Cristina Rucchetta)

Looking back one year ago, the Wilfrid Laurier women’s soccer team is finding themselves in an almost identical situation.

After dominating their quarterfinal match with a 5-1 victory over the fifth-seeded Guelph Gryphons, Sunday afternoon, the purple and gold are preparing themselves for the next level of their soccer season: the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) final four.

“We don’t just want to be there,” said Laurier head coach Barry MacLean. “We want to go there preparing to win.”

Hosted this year in Ottawa, Ont., Laurier will be one of four squads looking to become the top team in the province. Laurier, the Queen’s Gaels, the McMaster Marauders and the Ottawa Gee-Gees are all returning competitors in the final four.

This will mark the third-straight year those four teams have been the last four standing in the OUA.

“The teams that we’re going to be competing with are all very, very good,” MacLean said. “We’ve got to replicate the performance that we had in [the Guelph] match if we want to win a championship.”

Sunday’s win over Guelph was an example of what the Hawks expect in the playoffs where the Hawk dominated the field and saw numerous shots, rebounds and goals— just as MacLean had wanted.

“We knew it was a big game,” Laurier striker Emily Brown said. “It was important for us to get the goals early and set the tone for the game and that’s exactly what we did.”

Brown would score a hat trick during Sunday’s match as she seized the numerous opportunities stemming from the play of teammate, Julie Maheu.

“I was just focusing on this game,” said second-year Maheu, who was named WLU’s athlete of the week after her performance. “We had a lot to live up to especially after coming first in [the division].”

“I’m just really glad we finished all those shots and Emily was there to finish my rebounds”, she added.

Maheu would score just before the end of the first half, striking it past Guelph’s goalkeeper, Alex King after setting up three of the other four goals. Maheu had a total of five shots on King.

“She always plays so well,” Brown said of Maheu’s consistent performance. “She’s aggressive, she’s fast, she gets the ball in the right spot.”

“Julie Maheu was the biggest difference of the day,” MacLean agreed. “We had good performances all around […] but she was influential for four out of the five goals.”

Krista Cellucci would round out the scoring on a phenomenal goal early in the first half, chipping the shot right over King. Cellucci’s goal in the Guelph game would mark her sixth of the season and first of the post-season.

First on the Hawks’ list of contenders in the final four is a familiar foe, the Queen’s Gaels who are the reigning OUA and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) champions.

Queen’s finished their season second in the OUA East division trailing behind the undefeated powerhouse from Ottawa .

“We had a little rivalry with Queen’s last year,” smiled Brown. “We’re looking to come out and take [back] the win that we deserve.”

The top three teams in the OUA championships will advance to the CIS finals hosted in Victoria, B.C a week later.

But gold is what is on the Hawks’ minds.

“[And] we’re capable of that,” McLean said.

Laurier plays Queen’s in the OUA semifinals on Saturday at 2 p.m, while McMaster and Ottawa will play Saturday at 11 a.m.

The winners will play in the gold medal game the following day at 2 p.m.


Final Four Preview

Ottawa Gee-Gees
(No. 1)
2011: OUA fourth place
This year: 14-0-2, first in OUA East, beat Carleton 1-0 in quarterfinal

Laurier Golden Hawks
(No. 6)
2011: OUA runner up, CIS contender
This year: 11-2-3, first in OUA West, beat Guelph 5-1 in quarterfinal

Queen’s Gaels
(No. 7)
2011: OUA and CIS champions
This year: 11-2-3, second in the OUA East, beat Toronto 3-1 in quarterfinal

McMaster Marauders
2011: OUA third place
This year: 10-4-2, third in OUA West, beat UOIT 2-1 in OUA first round, beat Western 1-0 in OUA quarter-final

(National rankings in parenthesis)

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