One goal. That’s all that stood between the women’s soccer team and a chance to host the OUA Final Four next weekend. Instead, their season, which was granted a stay of execution by miserable weather on Saturday, met its demise at the hands of the Ottawa Gee-Gees Sunday afternoon in Ottawa. The 1-0 loss means Queen’s has now missed the Final Four for two consecutive seasons.
Ottawa head coach Steve Johnson said his team expected the Gaels would pose a stiff challenge.
“We thought going into this game that it would be very tight,” he said. “Both squads have very good defensive records, so I was expecting early that one or two goals would win it.”
Queen’s beat Ottawa 2-0 in their first league game this year, but the Gee-Gees rebounded to win 1-0 in the second regular-season clash. Johnson said his team focused on eliminating the defensive miscues and resulting scoring opportunities they’d surrendered in the first game, which led to their later wins.
“We played them early in Kingston and we made some mistakes,” he said. “We made some adjustments, and we performed much better.” Johnson said the win over a tough Gaels squad will provide his team with a boost going into next weekend’s Final Four and the ensuing national championships.
“To be able to play a team like Queen’s and come away 1-0, I think that’s great, because those are the quality teams we’re going to face at the Final Four,” he said. “If we can play with them, we can play with anybody.”
Despite the loss, Queen’s head coach Dave McDowell said he was proud of his team’s effort and impressed that they’d gotten so far with a young team. Only five players on the team’s 26-person roster were in their third or fourth year of eligibility.
“I’m really proud of them,” McDowell said. “They had a terrific season. They’re a really good group and we’re really excited about how young they are.”
McDowell said it was disappointing for the team to have to play Sunday instead of Saturday because of the field conditions.
“I don’t know how much it affected us on the day, but our girls were really ready to go yesterday and they were quite upset that we couldn’t play,” he said. “As I told them, we can’t control the weather, we can only control our
reaction to it.”
The game was primarily a midfield battle, with neither side able to create much offensively. The Gee-Gees made the most of the chances they got though, recording eight shots on net to Queen’s two. Fifth-year goalkeeper Katie McKenna, the CIS shutouts leader this season, parried seven of those shots, but she was beaten by a close-range header from Ottawa midfielder Rachel Swetnam off a 14th-minute corner kick. Queen’s pressed for the equalizer throughout the game, but most of their shots sailed wide or high. McDowell said his team played a strong possession game but the offence was disappointing.
“I thought we built up well out of the back at times,” he said. “Once we got in the offensive third, we really struggled to find our way.”
McDowell said adjusting to the field was difficult for his players.
“Field turf is generally not easy to play on, and this is pretty crappy field turf, so that makes it even worse,” he said. “It becomes a game of attrition, where it’s always bouncing, and trying to settle the ball is very difficult.”
McDowell said it’s going to be tough for the team to move forward next year without their veterans.
“It’s been two years now since we’ve been to nationals, and all those players from that team are now gone; they’ll all graduate this year,” he said. “There’s no sort of link to that tradition of being at nationals, what it’s like to be there, what it’s like to win at that level, the kind of grind it can become game in and game out in the playoffs.”
McDowell said the team has had trouble finding a consistent goal-scorer since 2006 CIS Player of the Year Eilish McConville graduated two years ago, but that’s an issue they’re going to have to address.
“We need to find someone who can stick the ball in the net on a regular basis,” he said. “We watched games from two years ago on the way up on the bus, and quite honestly, I don’t know that that team can build up as well as this one can when they get to play, but they had Eilish. She was unbelievable. That’s obviously going to be top of our list.”
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