The tale of nationals

the Wilfrid Laurier women’s soccer team went 0-2 against Laval and Cape Breton and finished tied for seventh place during nationals, hosted by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

the Wilfrid Laurier women’s soccer team went 0-2 against Laval and Cape Breton and finished tied for seventh place during nationals, hosted by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. | Photos and Manipulation by Will Huang

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Emily Brown had tears in her eyes before the consolation semifinal Friday morning.

The Wilfrid Laurier women’s soccer team was already eliminated from medal contention at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship and they were without Brown, Nicole Lyon and Maxine Murchie for the game. It was a tough game to play — a team plays for essentially nothing but bragging rights and a fifth-place finish at the national level. In the words of head coach Barry MacLean, it’s a non-game.

So the tears from the fifth-year striker before the game could have been pain from the injuries. It could have been pain from being eliminated from the possibility of playing for a medal.

Or it could have been that the fifth-year striker, that has an endless resume of accolades and finishes her career as the top scorer in Laurier and CIS history, couldn’t play in her last game as a Golden Hawk.

And that is the biggest disappointment of all.

“For me, it’s disappointing for the girls that are graduating that they don’t get another chance at it,” said MacLean after the Hawks dropped the consolation semifinal 2-0 to finish tied for seventh at nationals for the fourth consecutive appearance.

Brown and a handful of players played their final game in Vancouver to end off stellar careers, most of which were part of the last Ontario University Athletics championship in 2013. And each of them have a major piece of Laurier’s program, said MacLean.

“We’ve got a great group. Emily Brown finishes as the leading scorer in CIS history, Sarah Farano has been an unheralded leader pretty much the whole time she’s been here. Shannon Fraser never gets any credit, but she’s been there every practice for four years, never missed a practice. Abbey [Zamec] really came into her own this year. Stacey [Simmons] got to play a little bit at the end. Meena [Sharif] and Shannon have been integral parts of the team without playing many minutes. They’re been great ambassadors for the program,” the bench boss said.

“Those people, they’re deserving.”

But it was tough to watch. Those graduates leave a program that hasn’t won a game at nationals since 2010 when they made it all the way to the final before losing to the Queen’s Gaels 1-0.

The Hawks have made it to the national stage four of the last five years but find themselves losing out immediately.

This year, Laurier was dealt a tough hand when they played the No. 1 nationally-ranked and top-seeded Laval Rouge et Or — also the defending champions — who ended up finishing third in the championship.

The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds won their record sixth CIS banner in an all-Canada West championship over the Trinity Western Spartans.

“I’m not worried about that,” MacLean said. “They’re one-game initiatives, this game for me is a non-game.”

“The quarter-final game, if you don’t get past that, the rest of it is nothing.”

“You’re not really playing for anything so that first game is critical in who you draw and we’ve had some tough draws,” MacLean continued.

Tough draws, indeed. Laurier played formidable against Laval in the quarter-final, but an unlucky play gave Laval a 1-0 win.

In 2013, their last appearance in the CIS championship, Laurier drew the top-seeded and defending champions Trinity Western and fell 3-0.

“Each year is a different year. What you get dealt in your first game [says a lot],” MacLean explained. “If you look at what we’ve been dealt with over the last four years, we’ve [drawn the tournament favourites] three out of the last four years in the first game.”

But regardless, MacLean and his squad boast good recruitment practices and team tactics that help them find their way to be among the top of the OUA.

With a 12-2-2 record this year, the Hawks will be looking to fill the missing pieces come 2016 and find their way back to the national championship, looking for their first gold medal since 1995.

“We’ll regroup and find a way back next year,” MacLean said.

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