West’s best up next

Western, Laurier main barricades in Gaels’ road to nationals

After a stunning upset of the top-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees last Sunday, Queen’s will play in the OUA Final Four for the fifth straight season.

Joining them in the provincial semi-finals are the Laurier Golden Hawks, the Carleton Ravens and the host Western Mustangs.

Fifth-year striker Riley Filion, the 2011 East MVP, is an OUA first-team All-Star this season, while fourth-year defender Melissa Jung, fifth-year midfielder Alexis McKinty and rookie defender Micah Vermeer are second-team All-Stars.

The other three teams in the in the Final Four also claim a high number of All-Stars, with the two teams representing the West Division bringing in three major OUA awards.

Tonight, the Gaels will face a Western squad that boasts the OUA West Rookie of the Year, defender Jenna White.

The Mustangs finished the regular season undefeated, with five draws and sent six players to the All-Star teams. Their head coach, Martin Painter, was named OUA West coach of the year.

Despite Western’s success this year, Queen’s head coach Dave McDowell said the Gaels are at a similar level.

“Western is very good, but we think we can play with them,” he said. “As a group, we’re confident if we come out and play well, we’re going to give them a good game.”

Laurier is led by striker Emily Brown, the OUA West MVP. Her 18 goals in the regular season led the league.

Alongside Brown, three other Golden Hawks are first-team All-Stars this year. Laurier finished the regular season 9-3-4 and have made the Final Four each of the past four seasons.

“Laurier is an old favourite,” McDowell said. “We’ve certainly seen a lot of them in the last four years, in terms of Final Fours and national championships, so no strangers there.”

Carleton finished the regular season 9-3-4, finishing third in the OUA East. In two meetings with the Ravens this year, the Gaels defeated them 1-0 and drew 2-2.

The Gaels spent this week making sure everyone on the team was recovered from injuries. For a team that has struggled with game-impacting injuries throughout the season, this is of paramount importance for the weekend ahead.

McDowell said Sunday’s Ottawa game introduced the younger Gaels to the style of play in the playoffs, something that will help them moving forward.

“The Ottawa game was typical playoff soccer, very hard-nosed, very physical,” he said.

The winner of tonight’s match between Queen’s and Western will advance to the OUA gold medal game and will automatically advance to the CIS championships.

The losing team will play for the OUA bronze medal.

With files from Sean Sutherland

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