Laurier’s golden girls win OUA
LONDON, Ont. – Emily Brown felt like she was due to feel the red ribbon around her neck.
The third-year women’s soccer all-star striker had experienced enough disappointment in her last two visits to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship final that she wanted the next one to end with a gold medal.
So when second-year defender Sarah Farano stepped up to the 18-yard box, put the ball down on the penalty kick marker and sent it past Western Mustangs’ second-year goalkeeper Tori Edgar for the OUA championship win, it was a glorified celebration for the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks.
“I’ve been here two other times and unfortunately it’s been a disappointing outcome,” Brown said after the celebration had ceased Sunday evening. “So it’s a great feeling to be to finally have the red ribbon around our neck and to finally have the trophy.”
Since Laurier’s last OUA championship in 2010, the Hawks fell in the final twice in close affairs. In 2011 on their home field, Laurier lost 1-0 on penalty kicks to the Queen’s Gaels. In 2012, the Hawks lost to the Ottawa Gee-Gees 1-0 in extra time.
But this time, it was Laurier who would prevail.
“The one thing I don’t think people recognize is how young our team is,” said Laurier head coach Barry MacLean. “We have a couple of fourth year players, but most of our players are first and second year players. And we went through a few growing pains, learning how we’re going to play, and playing with the kind of composure we needed to.
“But the last three weeks of the season, I think we really rounded into shape.”
The Hawks fought through two games over the weekend in the OUA Final Four, first edging out the third-seeded Carleton Ravens 1-0 on penalty kicks Friday evening.
So then coming into the final against the top-seeded and No. 1 nationally ranked Mustangs, the odds weren’t in Laurier’s favour.
But through 90 minutes of play, the Hawks controlled the tempo and created copious amounts of chances. Third-year Julie Maheu and second-year Suzanne Boroumand controlled the wings while Brown worked the middle with second-year Katie Bishop.
The backline, which consisted of Farano, fourth-year Kelsey Tikka, fourth-year Amanda Mithrush and first-year Jacky Normandeau let very few chances from the Mustangs’ offence come through, and if they did, fourth-year keeper Katrina Ward stood her ground.
“I’m so proud of my team,” Brown said. “We fought to the end, we played so much soccer this weekend and we got the results we needed, so I couldn’t be happier.”
Ward was a crucial contribution to the Hawks’ wins, making a big stop in the final minutes of regulation against Carleton to keep Laurier in the game, and again against Western when she made two big stops in penalty kicks and got some help from the post to give Laurier their OUA banner.
“It was pretty much the same thing, just trying to repeat what I did on Friday and just stay focused,” Ward said. “We fought this hard, the girls were tired, I knew that, and I was like, ‘this is it. This is my contribution.’”
Now, the Hawks will make their fourth-straight trip to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship as the top seed out of the OUA, hosted by the Toronto Varsity Blues in Toronto, Ont.
The good news? The Hawks won’t have to play the top seed out of another division.
The bad news? Laurier will have a date with the Trinity Western Spartans in the quarterfinal game, the same team they met up with a year ago in the 2012 CIS tournament.
Last year, the Spartans defeated Laurier 2-1 and went on to win the CIS trophy.
“We’ll have a look at the tape of Trinity Western’s [game],” MacLean said. “We played them last year; they’re an exceptional team. We might have our hands full, but we’re going to get after it.”
MacLean said that he will expect another performance like the OUA final from his team, saying that “the entire team, right from number one to number eleven, were fantastic.”
“We got our goal for OUAs and I think now, we just need to put it behind us and just build on what we worked on [Sunday],” Ward said. “I think we played fantastic soccer [Sunday]. This was probably one of our best games that we’ve played and through tired legs and injuries and everything. So I think we just need to go for it.”
The Hawks will open their CIS route Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. EST when they take on the Spartans. The winner moves on the CIS semifinal, while the loser drops down to the consolation semifinal.