Lacrosse team reclaims gold medal
Well, that had to be one of the fastest rebuilds in sports history.
Just a year after suffering from significant roster turnover that resulted in a 7-5 season, ending a streak of six straight provincial championships, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s lacrosse team once again owns the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) gold medal.
The Hawks downed the Western Mustangs 7-5 in the championship game on Saturday night to re-capture provincial title.
The win was also a source of revenge for the purple and gold as last season, the Mustangs came out on top in the gold medal game, sending the Hawks home with silver.
“It was absolutely fantastic,” said third-year goalie Hanna Burnett. “It was the same semi-final and final as last year so we actually did re-claim [the gold medal] it was just a repeat but with a much better result.”
After losing just one game all year, the Hawks came into the OUA championship tournament with an 11-1 record, earning them a bye to the semi-finals on Friday afternoon.
There, they met the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, who according to head coach Lynn Orth are always a tough match-up.
“We have a bit of a problem with U of T every time we play them,” she said.
“But we were in control of that game, even though the score doesn’t show it. It was a good, hard-fought game, but we were ahead the whole game, we never relinquished the lead.”
The Hawks would come away with a 12-11 win, lifting them to their eighth OUA championship game in ten years, where they would down the host Mustangs.
The win signals a return to prominence for a team that dominated the OUA for so long, even going three years without losing a single game between 2006 and 2009.
“It comes with maturity,” said Orth of the team’s quick turnaround. “Last year we had a lot of young players and they just didn’t know how to play together yet. This year, we really ramped it up, we worked on a number of different things and then in the second half of the year we just fine-tuned everything.”
Thanks to the team being so young in 2009, the Hawks came into this season losing just three players from last year’s team. That continuity was complemented by a strong rookie class featuring the likes of OUA all-star Ashley Rutz.
“Having played together all last year and gaining that experience, we were a much better team coming into this year,” said Burnett. “Also we had some absolutely fantastic rookies who came in and did such an amazing job and were huge contributors all year.”
Rutz wasn’t the only Hawk who earned personal accolades this season, as she was joined on the all-star team by Burnett, third-year Emma Pink and fourth-year Amanda Groothuis. Burnett was also named most outstanding player.
“She’s touted by a lot of people as the best goalie in the league,” said Orth of Burnett. “She has her bad days like anyone else but even her bad days are still better than a lot of people’s good days.”
Orth also took home a personal award, winning OUA coach of the year. Despite the Hawks’ six straight titles from 2003-08, this is the first time Orth has won the award.
Back on top of the OUA, the Hawks now turn their sights to next year.
“I think next year’s going to be just as great,” said Burnett. “We’ll have pretty much the same team and I think if we put in the work in the off-season we’re going to be just as good, if not better next season.”