Road back to nationals

Women’s soccer starts playoff run against fourth-place Carleton Ravens on Sunday

The Gaels beat the Carleton Ravens 2-0 when the two teams played at Richardson Stadium on Oct. 1.
The Gaels beat the Carleton Ravens 2-0 when the two teams played at Richardson Stadium on Oct. 1.
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The question of the 2011 season was whether the women’s soccer team could handle the pressure of being defending national champions. They responded by posting an OUA-best 13-1-2 regular season record.

The Gaels have a near-identical roster to last season. But they have an extra year of experience and several strong rookies this season.

On offence, the Gaels scored 46 goals in 16 games. Striker Jackie Tessier led the OUA with 12 goals. Captain Kelli Chamberlain broke into the league’s top 10 with eight. OUA East MVP Riley Filion and rookie striker Breanna Burton added six each on the season.

Fourth-year midfielder Angela Sullivan missed the entire season with a concussion but third-year Chantel McFetridge and OUA East rookie of the year Jessie De Boer have performed well in her absence.

The Gaels’ defence allowed 12 goals this season — only the second-place Ottawa Gee-Gees allowed fewer. Fifth-year goalkeeper Chantel Marson posted a league-high eight shutouts and 12 wins. Fourth-year defender Brienna Shaw — fully healed from the cracked ribs and separated shoulder she suffered in the FISU games this summer — played the last nine regular season games. The Gaels allowed only six goals when Shaw was an active member of the roster.

This season’s OUA playoffs will be more competitive than last season. The Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks — who beat the Gaels in last season’s OUA final — won the OUA West with a 12-2-0 record.

The 12-3-1 Ottawa Gee-Gees finished only four points behind the Gaels and the third-place Toronto Varsity Blues are 1-0-1 against Queen’s this season.

All three teams are capable of ending the Gaels’ playoff run — but Queen’s will likely win their OUA semifinal to qualify for nationals without having to face any of them. The first-place Gaels should only have to beat the 8-6-2 Carleton Ravens and the 8-5-1 McMaster Marauders to secure a spot at nationals in Montreal next month.

The women have been complacent several times this season, blowing a two-goal lead against the Toronto Varsity Blues on Sept. 25 and narrowly beating teams like the 1-13-2 Trent Excalibur and the seventh-place Royal Military College Paladins. But an experienced squad with seven fourth and fifth-year players will step up for the big games.

The Gaels host the Carleton Ravens in an OUA quarter-final on Sunday at 1 p.m. on West Campus.

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