Don’t press the panic button

Evaluating the women’s soccer team through four games

Striker Breanna Burton scored six goals in 2011.
Striker Breanna Burton scored six goals in 2011.

The Queen’s Gaels women’s soccer squad is maintaining a cool demeanor, despite a rocky 2-1-1 start. The thought of not repeating as national champions hasn’t seemed to cross the minds of the Gaels players or coaching staff, although many issues still linger with the team.

The most pressing issue so far is the consistency of Queen’s offensive attack. The Gaels have had no issue with scoring against teams at the bottom of the league, beating RMC 5-0 and Ryerson 4-0, but have had trouble mustering up shots against more competitive opponents. In the loss to the Gee-Gees and the draw with the Varsity Blues, Queen’s managed only to fire six total shots on net.

The issue with the offense may relate to the injuries to strikers Breanna Burton and Jackie Tessier. Burton’s fitness level isn’t 100 per cent, while Tessier sat out last weekend’s games against Ryerson and Toronto.

Tessier is a proven goal scorer who can instantly add firepower to the Gaels attack. Midfielders Riley Filion and Alexis McKinty must lead the offense, as the timeframe of Tessier’s return is unknown.

On the other side of the pitch, the Gaels defence has been absolutely stellar. The back line has surrendered just three goals on the season, all of which were scored by Ottawa.

A highlight for the defenders has to be limiting Toronto to one shot on goal in their draw last Sunday. For them to reach the level of play they did last season, the defence will have to remain organized and continue to play aggressive.

Gaels head coach Dave McDowell has been experimenting with a three-goalkeeper rotation, featuring third-year Sabrina Carew, second-year Rachel Burton and first-year Madison Tyrell.

This has been instituted to replace Chantel Marson, who graduated after winning MVP honours at the 2011 national championship.

All three keepers have been playing well, with Carew getting the bulk of the time in between the pipes.

For the team to reach a high level of play, they need to have confidence in whichever keeper McDowell eventually names starter.

The match against Ottawa exposed vulnerabilities on both ends of the pitch for Queen’s. The Gaels displayed poor ball movement, with many of their attempted passes intercepted by the Gee-Gees. Ottawa controlled the play in the match, completely outclassing Queen’s in every aspect.

Strikers Burton and Tessier played sparingly in the loss, while Carew looked shaky in net as two long lob shots stuck the crossbar.

Queen’s defenders looked disorganized at times, which also contributed to the loss. The game may have been much closer if the Gaels were healthy and playing their signature tough defence.

Queen’s head coach Dave McDowell makes sure to mention after every game, regardless of the result, that the Gaels are still building.

The players, coaches and fans all know the talent and level that this team can reach. As long as everyone is healthy and the team is clicking, the Gaels are poised to make another deep playoff run.

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