Laurier’s women’s soccer team heads to the OUA final four
Defeating the UOIT Ridgebacks in Sunday’s Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarterfinals meant only one thing for head coach Barry MacLean and the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s soccer program: they punched their ticket to the OUA Final Four against the Carleton Ravens.
The Hawks’ crossover match against the OUA East’s Ravens is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 1 at London’s Alumni Field. The tournament is hosted by the highest remaining seed in the OUA West, the Western Mustangs.
Shutdown defence and capitalizing on rare opportunities contributed to the Hawks’ 2-0 victory over the Ridgebacks at University Stadium. The Hawks will return to the OUA Final Four for the seventh consecutive season this November.
“That was a typical playoff game and both teams were 100 per cent committed,” said MacLean. “In terms of balance, the game went in ebb and flow, back and forth.”
Striker Emily Brown put the Hawks ahead less than three minutes into the match after striking the ball from almost 30 yards out from the net past goalkeeper Melissa MacKinnon. Brown scored 18 goals in 16 regular season games and captured her second consecutive OUA scoring title.
Defender Cassandra Mensah, assuming a midfield role after being substituted midway through the contest, scored Laurier’s second goal from the goal-line following Julie Maheu’s corner kick and a defensive scramble from UOIT. The 77th minute goal was the first of second-year Mensah’s career as a Hawk.
Winger Jessica Craig was ushered off the pitch after a collision at the 56-minute mark and suffered what appeared to be a sprained ankle. The rookie has been exceptional throughout her first campaign with the Hawks. Craig started 12 of 13 games she played during the regular season and notched two goals.
“Craig is doubtful for Friday and we will reassess before Sunday’s game whether or not she is in game shape,” said MacLean.
MacLean praised Sarah Farano, Amanda Mithrush, Jacky Normandeau and Kelsey Tikka for being a seemingly an impenetrable backline in front of veteran goalkeeper Katrina Ward. Ward stopped all six shots she faced.
The Ridgebacks’ only significant threat was a breakaway opportunity from Sonia Samponga in the 59th minute that resulted in a crucial save from Ward to preserve the shutout for the Hawks.
Mithrush, for the second time in her career, was honoured as Laurier’s athlete of the week for her performance on Sunday.
“That was probably the best defensive performance we’ve had all season,” MacLean said. “[UOIT] is an excellent team and we finished our chances and defended well.”
The second-seeded and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) nationally ranked No. 10 Hawks will play their crossover match against the third-seeded Ravens from the OUA East division. The Ravens upset the No. 7 Toronto Varsity Blues 1-0 in extra time on Sunday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. for Laurier.
“Carleton is a relative unknown for us and have played well this regular season,” explained MacLean. “We’re anticipating a tough elimination game and we’re focusing our energy on a game-to-game basis.”
Meanwhile, the No. 2 Mustangs will play their crossover match against the fourth-seeded Queen’s Gaels. The Gaels upset the No. 1 Ottawa Gee-Gees 1-0 in penalty kicks in their quarterfinal matchup. The Mustangs handily defeated the Guelph Gryphons 2-0 and were undefeated throughout the regular season.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. for the Gaels and Mustangs.
The winners of the two semifinal matches will meet on Sunday to play in the OUA championship game. The two teams that make it to the final will qualify for nationals alongside the Varsity Blues, who automatically qualify because they host the tournament.