The Gaels opened their season in similar fashion to how they ended last year’s campaign — dominant.
Looking to continue on the successes of last season — where the women’s soccer team went undefeated in their last 12 games to win th 2015 OUA championship and later a fifth place finish at the national championships — the team earned a full six points in the standings at Miklas-McCarney Field on their opening weekend with convincing wins over Nipissing and Laurentian.
Following the victories, the Gaels jumped up a spot in national rankings, putting them in sixth.
Fifth-year striker Tara Bartram, who scored in the 2-1 victory over Laurentian on Sunday, explained the significance of the ranking.
“The national ranking means so much to the team,” she said, noting how it’s a reminder of what their hard work has achieved. “Personally, it’s the highest Queen’s has been ranked while I’ve been here and it makes me very proud.”
Bartram also spoke about the importance of getting wins early on in the season, especially on the heels of last year’s success.
“I think it’s a great way to set the tone for the rest of the season,” she said. “ We have something to prove coming off the great way we ended last year, but we’re more than up for the challenge.”
Coach Dave McDowell also spoke with optimism about the team’s chances to repeat the success of last year and even push beyond. For him, it’s important to have a strong team culture to thrive throughout the season.
The team has seen a slight change in personnel from last year, losing midfielder Jessie de Boer and defender Micah Vermeer. McDowell acknowledged the vital contributions of the two to the team’s title run last season, yet he has faith the team can adjust.
McDowell added that he was impressed with how well many of the team’s new players have fit in with the old players, both in training and in the games over the weekend.
But, if the team wishes to improve on last year’s performance, there are still aspects of their game they’ll need to work on. According to McDowell, a main focus for the team this year will be turning draws into wins. Last season, the Gaels drew seven times during the regular season — the same amount of wins they picked up.
To capitalize on their positive work and see a difference in the league standings, McDowell stressed the team’s scoring rate when in front of the opposing net as a key point, their “efficiency in finishing, getting into good positions.” This was especially prevalent on Sunday, with the Gaels taking eleven shots in the first half, only one of which found the back of the net.
One more important aspect McDowell mentioned was team defending, and maintaining the strong goals-against record from the previous season. The Gaels averaged 0.5 goals-against per game last season.
On the whole, McDowell was satisfied with the team’s two wins.
“The first weekend’s always tough, molding together new and returning player. Six points was the number one thing.”
Jenny Wolever and Rachel Radu scored in the Gaels’ 2-1 victory over Nipissing in the season debut on Saturday. Wolever also added a second goal to her tally, following up Tara Bartram’s opener against Laurentian the next day.
The Gaels are next in action on the road this weekend against UOIT and Trent respectively.
Jenny Wolever, Laurentian Voyageurs, Nipissing Lakers, Tara Bartram, Women's soccer
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