Women's soccer through to OUA semi-finals

Gaels beat UOttawa Gee-Gees 2-1 (5-4 in penalty kicks) to advance to OUA semi-finals

The women's soccer team celebrates at Richardson Stadium following their penalty shootout victory.
Supplied by Robin Kasem

The pouring rain and cold weather couldn’t dampen the women’s soccer team’s playoff hopes on Sunday afternoon — nothing could.

Queen’s hosted the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees at Richardson Stadium on Oct. 28 — the third matchup between the two this season — for an OUA quarter-final bout that saw both teams go toe-to-toe before the Gaels squeezed out a win over the visitors by way of penalty kicks.

Following the game, head coach Dave McDowell said the Gaels’ familiarity with the Gee-Gees was something the team used to their advantage in their bye-week prior to the game.

“We knew we got the toughest of the [OUA] quarter-finals, I thought, in terms of quality of the two teams that are playing,” McDowell said on how the Gaels fared on paper against the Gee-Gees. He added that although it’s helpful to not play a mid-week first round post-season game, it’s still “tough coming in — it’s just the energy that’s not there anymore [from the season] … You can’t replace it.”

Even though the visitors scored first to take the lead in the 22nd minute, the Gaels didn’t change their approach to the game. The home side continued to push the pace in wet conditions and just before halftime, OUA leading scorer Laura Callender found the back of the net to level the score at 1-1.

In the second half, the momentum swayed in the Gaels’ favour. Maintaining possession in the Gee-Gees' end for a large majority of the final 45 minutes, Queen’s was looking for a way to end the game prior to extra-time. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, as the final whistle came with the score still tied.

“[It] was back-and-forth,” McDowell said on the second 45 minutes. “I thought we played very well, and I thought we kind of showed in the second half — and mostly in the second half — signs of good play.”

After 30 minutes of extra time, the teams lined up anxiously at the halfway line in anticipation for penalty kicks. Although a pressure-filled moment, Queen’s looked unfazed and prepared as the rain hailed down. After the game, McDowell said his team “rehearsed [penalties] all week”.

“We were hoping not to go to them,” he continued, “[especially] after scoring so many goals this year, you know?”

“But playoffs are a different a bag of tricks sometimes.”

Through the first four rounds of penalty shots, Queen’s and the Gee-Gees remained tied at 4-4. After OUA assist leader Jenny Woelver pushed the Gaels ahead 5-4, the pressure was all on the foot of the Ottawa player. Converting on her shot would’ve extended the shootout another round; a miss or a Queen’s save would grant the Gaels a win.

Once the UOttawa final shooter kicked the ball high off the Queen’s goal, the home side's players and bench erupted in unison. With a 2-1 (5-4 on penalty kicks) win, the Gaels met with their goalkeeper, Anna Stephenson, outside the 18-yard box. Knowing they were going through to the OUA semi-finals, the Gaels jumped and cheered in celebration.

After the game, McDowell said he thought his team was “clinical” in the shootout, executing what they had practiced earlier in the week. Even though their goal of an OUA championship is still on the line, McDowell said the team is going to take the postseason “one step at a time.”

“We’ll keep taking the next step as it comes to us,” he told The Journal on a soggy Richardson turf while his team celebrated behind him.

“I told [the players] before the game, ‘Each playoff journey is about the first step and then taking the next step’, and so for us the next step would be on Friday … wherever that is.”

Queen’s will travel to UOIT next weekend in a game that will carry with it its fair share of bad blood after the Ridgebacks beat the Gaels 1-0 in last year’s OUA finals. 

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