Laurier’s women’s soccern shut down in CIS nationals

(Photo by Heather Davidson)
(Photo by Heather Davidson)

TORONTO, Ont. – It wasn’t expected, but their fate seemed all too familiar.

Despite offensive uncertainty and plenty of injuries, the Wilfrid Laurier women’s soccer team advanced to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championships, but lost the quarterfinal to the eventual tournament winners, the Trinity Western Spartans, before eventually dropping out of the tournament in the consolation semifinal for the third year in a row.

“It’s really disappointing, obviously,” third-year Julie Maheu said for her team,  following the 3-0 quarterfinal loss to the Spartans.

The loss finished Laurier’s season without any national hardware, but the Hawks exceeded expectations. Coming into the season, the team lost three big starters, leaving a few holes in their roster.

After a struggle to find offence at the beginning of the year, third-year striker Emily Brown exploded, scoring seven goals in two games and being named the Laurier, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and the CIS athlete of the week. She helped the Hawks secure a solid position in the OUA West division and the team started to find their groove going into the playoffs.

The UOIT Ridgebacks were never an issue for Laurier in the OUA quarterfinal, and the Hawks headed to the OUA Final Four — again.

But they continued to exceed expectations.

After a penalty-kick victory over the Carleton Ravens in the semifinal, Laurier dethroned the No. 1 nationally ranked Western Mustangs to take home the OUA banner.

“It’s a little disheartening to finish on this note, but this season probably exceeded expectations,” MacLean said. “I thought that they played fantastic as a group. Our young players came to the forefront. We had a lot of great performances and as a team we were superb.”

Due to the CIS bracket matchups, Laurier was to play the finalist from the Canada West conference in the quarterfinal of nationals. In the Canada West final, the Alberta Pandas defeated the Spartans 2-1, setting up a rematch from 2012 when the Hawks lost to TWU 2-1.

However history repeated itself and the Hawks couldn’t overcome the eventual — and defending — national champions. A few mistakes and communication errors sealed Laurier’s fate at a national medal. A day later, a strong Toronto team eliminated them from fifth-place contention.

“Our coach said we played well [against Trinity Western], but at the same time, just thinking about the outcome, it’s just really disappointing,” Maheu said, sporting a tough look on behalf of her broken hearted team.

“We just came out of the OUAs and everyone’s pumped and this is what happens. I’m still proud of my team; we fought to the end, which was great. It’s just, again, disappointing.”
MacLean noted that Maheu was also a pivotal part of the women’s soccer puzzle that made a statement this season. Maheu was named player of the game for both the CIS quarterfinal and the consolation semifinal, scoring Laurier’s first goal since the 2-0 win against the Ridgebacks.

“It’s not just these two games; she’s been great the last half of the season,” MacLean said. “She’s been a huge impact for us and she’s been a big part of our success in the last little while and she’s created a lot of our goals. She’s been great.”

Another issue the Hawks had this year was dealing with injuries. Throughout the year, at least one Hawk was sidelined with an injury. In the quarterfinal against UOIT, rookie Jessica Craig went down with a harsh ankle injury, which sidelined her throughout the OUA finals and the CIS championships. In the quarterfinal of the CIS championships, second-year Suzanne Boroumand suffered a head injury when challenging for a head ball.

“We’re a pretty banged up team and the roster has really shrunk down to a few players,” MacLean said. “For us, I think we need to be a little bit deeper with the amount of players available to us, and if we get that, then I think we have a chance to win the championship.”

For a season that exceeded expectations, the future of the Hawks seems bright, according to MacLean. Without only one player graduating — fourth-year goalkeeper Katrina Ward — MacLean sees a lot of promise in his team.

“I look at our team last year, a young team going into nationals, we were a little bit afraid and not sure what we were dealing with,” he said. “This year we didn’t look like that at all and I think next year people are going to have to be a little frightened.”

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