Strong start for women’s soccer

Weekend games feature pair of shutouts by Gaels

Striker Renee MacLellan scored for the Gaels on Saturday.
Striker Renee MacLellan scored for the Gaels on Saturday.
Journal File Photo

Women’s soccer turned in an impressive performance on Saturday, defeating the Ryerson Rams 2-0, and then tied the perennially strong University of Toronto Varsity Blues 0-0 on Sunday. The team had a lot to prove after winning silver at last year’s nationals.

In the first game, Queen’s offense put the Rams under pressure right from the kickoff. Twenty minutes in, winger Laura Johnstone drilled the ball into the net from six yards out to put the Gaels up 1-0. Both sides pressed until the half, but strong defensive efforts from both squads prevented another goal.

With less than 20 minutes to go, striker Renee MacLellan was able to score from 8 yards out, giving the Gaels a solid lead. Returning goalkeeper Katie McKenna made some key saves to preserve a shutout for the Gaels.

MacLellan said she was

impressed with the team’s performance.

“I think we played well. There’s some stuff to work on, but we played well, and we got into it, and I think we had all of the attack.,” she said.

“We’re really starting to pass well, and [we had] so many scoring opportunities. We need to keep it up and finish our opportunities.”

Johnstone said she has high hopes for the year.

“I’m very excited about the new season. We have a very new team, a very young team, and a team full of potential.” Head coach Dave McDowell said the team put in a good effort.

“Was it the prettiest display we’ll ever put on? No, but it looked like a team that’s a young team early in the season.”

Sunday’s game saw both Queen’s and Toronto pressing for goals early. MacLellan and Robinson again combined to create some strong chances for the Gaels, but couldn’t score. Queen’s goalkeeper Hannah Shoichet, a new arrival from UBC, made several key saves early on. The game turned into a midfield battle, with the hot conditions severely testing the physical conditioning of each side.

In the second half, both teams seemed to tire, and sank back into more defensive positions.

Tensions rose again late in the game when Shoichet was penalized for handling the ball outside the 18-yard box, giving Toronto a free kick from just outside the penalty area. The Blues were unable to convert, as they put another ball over the net. The match finished in a scoreless draw.

Shoichet later said that she thought the free kick shouldn’t have been given.

“Part of my body was out of the box, but the ball in my hands wasn’t, so I feel [the referee’s assistant] was mistaken a bit, but no hard feelings: it didn’t end up in a goal,” she said.

McDowell said the Toronto game showed the team has room for improvement.

“Probably not our best effort, that’s for sure,” he said. “We did well for the first 20-25 minutes of each half, and then showed physical signs of not being able to do it, so obviously, fitness is an issue. I think we also struggled through the midfield today, especially through the central area. It’s one of those games where whoever takes their chances or takes some chances [wins], and nobody did.”

However, McDowell found some positives in the game.

“Again, we’re very young and we had a couple injuries: we put some other players in and they did fine,” he said, adding that both goalkeepers played well on the weekend and he plans to utilize both of them this year.

McDowell said the team has plenty of work to do before next weekend’s matches against Carleton and Ottawa.

“We’re going to have to be better next week in Ottawa, that’s for sure. Obviously, fitness is going to take a while to build up; you’re not going to do it in a week. Some of our returning players might have to look at themselves in the mirror and wonder what they were doing all summer. But, we’ll work on getting them there.”

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