Hawks set-up all-Ontario CIS final

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — For the first time since the Ottawa Gee-Gees claimed it in 1996, this year’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s soccer title will go to a team from Ontario.

After a 2-0 extra time win over the Montreal Carabins, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks will meet their fellow Ontario University Athletics (OUA) representative, the Queen’s Gaels in the national championship game Sunday at 1:00 AST (12:00 eastern).

Just a week ago, the Hawks downed the Gaels 1-0 at Queen’s to claim the OUA title.

“It’s going to be a good game, there’s no question,” said Laurier head coach Barry MacLean of the rematch with the Gaels. “They’re an excellent team, they’re well coached, they have offensive threats and they defend very well. I’m anticipating an excellent game.”

On Saturday night, the Hawks found themselves in their second straight tight game of the CIS finals, following their 1-0 win over the University of British Columbia in the quarterfinals with a nail-biting extra time match versus the Carabins.

Through the first 90 minutes, the teams played each other to a stalemate, with Laurier getting the majority of the scoring chances. Coming on particularly strong in the second half, the Hawks had a golden opportunity to go up 1-0 in the 77th minute when forward Krista Celluci’s shot was met by a terrific save from Montreal goalkeeper Sarah Therien.

MacLean, however felt his team could’ve taken the game before extra time.

“In the first half I don’t think we played up to our level,” he said. “But in the second half we had 4 or 5 incredible chances that were cleared off the line or that went off the bar, I thought we were deserving of the win even in regulation time, but we’re more than happy to win it in overtime.”

Just four minutes into extra time, the Hawks would score what would turn out to be the winning goal in controversial fashion.

Laurier forward Julia Marchese was battling for the ball inside the Carabins’ 18-yard-box when a Montreal defender got too aggressive in the lineswoman’s eyes. The result would be a rare penalty kick in extra time, and an outraged Montreal sideline.

“It was kind of a 50/50 ball and she was grabbing me a bit…. I didn’t really expect a penalty shot,” said Marchese. “It was kind of a lucky break for us, but we worked hard to earn it and we deserved to win.”

Hawks’ midfielder Alyssa Lagonia would step up to the penalty spot and make no mistake, putting it by a helpless Therien to break the deadlock.

“‘Just put it in the net,’ I said that to myself over and over,” said Lagonia. “It was a long wait [to take the kick] so it could psych someone out, but I just kept myself focused and put it in my spot.”

Shortly after the goal, the Hawks would once again benefit from a Montreal lapse in discipline. Carabins’ midfielder Claire Robbins would be assessed a straight red card after taking out her frustration on a Laurier player, sending her team down to 10 players, making their comeback attempt even more difficult.

From there, the Hawks would dominate the play with Lagonia would scoring her second of the game, finishing a beautiful pass from forward Ali McKee early in the second half of extra time. Fending off the desperate Carabins, the Hawks would hold on to the clean sheet and clinch their spot in the CIS championship.

“Montreal definitely put in a really good fight,” said Lagonia. “Maybe some calls from the referee could’ve gone either way, but that’s just the way soccer goes. We fought hard and we definitely earned our outcome.”

The only thing now standing in the way of the Hawks’ third national championship in team history is the aforementioned Gaels who advanced to the finals earlier in the day with a 2-0 win of their own over the Fraser Valley Cascades.

However, the Hawks are confident that they can summon a repeat performance of last Sunday’s provincial title clinching win that sent Queen’s off their home field in second place.

“I’m really excited to play tomorrow,” said Marchese. “I think we can beat Queen’s again, [we have to] just do what we did last time in the OUA championship and show them who’s the best.”