Rookies lead Hawks to .500 weekend
Recovering from a mid-season hiccup, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s soccer team finished their weekend with a crucial 4-0 domination over the Windsor Lancers.
After losing to both the McMaster Marauders and Western Mustangs — both of whom are trailing the Hawks by mere points — the squad needed the win in order to maintain their lead in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division.
The two losses spoiled the Hawks’ undefeated record and dropped the team’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national ranking from third to fifth.
“We were happy to get the result,” said Laurier head coach, Barry McLean, after Sunday’s victory.“We had a lot of injuries [and] it made a big difference for sure.”
In terms of injuries, Laurier’s natural starters Jackie Lence, Cassandra Mensah, Karen Barak, Krista Cellucci and Shelby Fallis all sat on the sidelines for the duration of the weekend.
As a result, Laurier’s rookies and youngsters were required to step up to the plate.
And they did not disappoint.
“It shows that we have some depth to our team,” McLean commented on the young players’ performance. “They all did very, very well.”
First-year midfielder Kiara Reyes scored the first goal of the game just seconds before halftime. Her first goal of the season, Reyes started the team’s momentum that would later become a dominant shutout.
“Everyone worked together,” the Kitchener native smiled. “[I was] just in the right place at the right time.”
McLean noted Reyes’ exceptional work ethic in the season so far.
“Kiara deserves it,” he said. “Just on the work she puts into the game.”
The rookies continued to turn heads as striker Kayleigh Bell scored after halftime for her second tally of the season.
“Kayleigh’s goal was fantastic,” McLean said.
Bell found a clear opportunity off of a pass from defender Kelsey Abbott. The Hawks generated 20 shots in 90 minutes, holding the Lancers to seven in both halves. Bell alone had four shots at the Windsor goal.
Windsor’s Tara Benard-Rae and Kelse Knechtel shared time between the pipes, with Benard-Rae given the loss.
“I was just wide open for the shot,” Bell humbly told The Cord. “I just kind of got lucky.”
Other goal contributors were Emily Brown, who made an amazing shot right off of a Windsor defencemen and Kelsey Tikka, who scored her first of the season and career through a penalty shot.
Brown currently sits tied for second in the OUA scoring race with 13 goals.
Laurier netminder Katrina Ward stopped all seven of the shots she faced, recording her second shutout of the season.
Putting an end to their two-game losing streak, the Hawks move forward in their season looking to defeat both Guelph and York next weekend. Laurier’s win widens the gap between the second-place Western Mustangs, who hold a three-point lead on the McMaster Marauders.
Next weekend’s games close out the season, which will determine the final spots in the playoffs.
The top two teams in each division will receive a bye, while the third place will host the sixth place team and the fourth place will host the fifth place team in the quarterfinals.