Soccer wins silver

Women lose 3-1 in national final

Number 14 Renée MacLellan scores the Gaels only goal of the national championship game.
Number 14 Renée MacLellan scores the Gaels only goal of the national championship game.
Photo by Bruce Stotesbury / Victoria Times Colonist
Eilish McConville fights to keep the ball in bounds in B.C.
Eilish McConville fights to keep the ball in bounds in B.C.

Last weekend, the women’s soccer team vied for the title of best in the country, but the Gaels lost 3-1 to the hometown favourites, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.

After a 1-0 victory over OUA rivals, the York Lions, last Saturday, the Gaels advanced to Sunday’s championship match against the Thunderbirds, held in Victoria, B.C.

There were 14 straight hours of rain in Victoria before the game but, despite the weather, the match was well attended.

The Gaels came out strong and shocked the crowd of mostly UBC supporters when striker Renee MacLellan scored on a pass from Eilish McConville only three minutes into the game.

Queen’s kept up the early pressure and dominated the first part of the game.

In the 28th minute, the Thunderbirds capitalized on their first scoring chance and tied the game at 1-1. UBC’s Stephanie Thibert broke through on the left side, beat two defenders and drove the ball past Queen’s goalkeeper Katie McKenna.

Queen’s had a chance to regain the lead when McConville took a shot from 12 yards out, but Thunderbirds’ keeper Jaclyn Dunnett made a great save to keep the game tied at 1-1. Towards the end of the half, the Gaels conceded several corner kicks, but the first few were handled by strong clearances from defender Andrea Pigozzo.

But the Thunderbirds eventually made the Gaels pay.

A corner kick from Caitlin Davie found Thibert in the box. McKenna made a great diving save off Thibert’s initial drive, but UBC defender Amy Bobb, named player of the tournament, finished off the rebound to put UBC up 2-1 at the end of the half.

UBC kept up the pressure after the break, but Queen’s came close to equalizing in the 62nd minute. MacLellan played a through ball to McConville, who broke in alone on goal and beat Dunnett. Her shot rolled just wide from 20 yards out.

Shortly after McConville’s chance, the Thunderbirds iced the contest when Davie drilled a shot into the top left corner of the Gaels’ net.

“[In] the first half, we played very well, and we held our own,” defender Katie Dalziel said. “The second half, we fell back a little defensively, so we didn’t play as well. UBC was a very good team, but I think we needed to step up a little more. We didn’t play our best.”

Head coach Dave McDowell was happy with his team’s performance but said he thought the Gaels had the opportunity to win.

“We came out and played with them. We had a couple of chances. We hit a few crossbars, and that could have put us up by a couple of goals,” he said.

McConville said it’s pointless to overanalyze what happened.

“You know, maybe if I had shot a little softer it would have fallen in, but that’s sport. That happens, and you can’t really be angry.”

McConville, the Gaels’ star fourth-year striker, was named Canadian University Player of the Year during the tournament.

“[Her award was] certainly deserved from what I’ve seen,” McDowell said. “She has just been a frightening player to have on our team, and she’s had a terrific year.”

McConville was also named to the tournament all-star team, joined by teammates Renee MacLellan and Carrie Knoll.

Despite the loss in the finals, players said they learned from the experience.

“For a second-year [player] like myself, it was a great experience, and next year it’s just going to make us work that much harder to get back there,” Dalziel said. “We’re going to want to keep going every year.”

McConville said she was proud of the way her team performed.

“We went at teams, we attacked them and we played the style of soccer that we’ve been playing all season long, and we were able to be successful doing it.”

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