Force up front

Gaels score big with trio of strikers

Breanna Burton has scored five goals so far this season.
Breanna Burton has scored five goals so far this season.

There’s never been a shortage of goals for the Gaels women’s soccer squad.

After this year’s graduation of the team’s leading scorer, Jackie Tessier, it was unclear who would replace her. The answer came in the form of an explosive scoring trio of strikers: third-year Breanna Burton, sophomore Brittany Almeida and newcomer Tara Bartram.

Head coach Dave McDowell is pleased with how the three-pronged attack is playing this year.

“It’s been a long process in terms of establishing something,” McDowell said. “They all play just a little bit differently; they have different strengths in different areas that we are looking on improving in.”

Each of the three brings something different to the table.

Although Almeida is the shortest of the bunch at 5’5”, she possesses a plethora of moves to get by defenders. Burton and Bartram are both a shade under six feet, using their height along with their skill to put balls in the net and set up teammates.

Some would think having three skilled strikers on a team would give a coach a tough decision on who to play, but McDowell is embracing his riches.

“For us, part of the success is having a number of players that can score,” McDowell said, “and not focusing all of our scoring potential on just one individual.”

Recruiting a blue-chip striker three years in a row is a rarity in the OUA, but McDowell seems to have an eye for talent at the position.

Before the current trio, he had Tessier and Kelli Chamberlain, both All-Canadian selections and integral parts to Queen’s back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011.

McDowell believes in getting the best talent available when recruiting, though he acknowledges there are difficulties in getting the best players.

“I think [a striker] is always one thing you are looking for. Kids that score lots of goals tend to be kids that get jumped on by US schools usually by the time they are 15 or 16,” McDowell said.

“Finding really good talent is a difficult process.”

Naturally, strikers get most of the attention because they score goals, but Burton believes the team as a whole deserves the credit.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t say that the strikers are the centrepiece to our success,” Burton said. “Every success that we’ve had has been a full team effort. In fact, every goal that is scored has contributions from players all over the field.”

Just over halfway into the season, Burton has netted five goals, Bartram four and Almeida two. It will be up to these three strikers to keep the goals coming for the Gaels to make a deep playoff run.

Burton believes building chemistry with her fellow strikers is important for the Gaels’ success.

“On the field we try to communicate as much as possible and give each other as much feedback as we can,” Burton said. “Off the field, we get along really well.”

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