History didn’t repeat itself Wednesday, which worked out well for the women’s soccer team. Last year, Queen’s hosted a first-round playoff game but fell 2-0 to the Royal Military College Paladins. The score was again 2-0 in Wednesday’s game against the Nipissing Lakers, but in favour of the Gaels this time. In what has become typical Gaels fashion this season, the win wasn’t pretty.
Fifth-year goalkeeper and team captain Kate McKenna said she was excited to pick up a playoff win, even if it wasn’t the Gaels’ best game.
“We didn’t play very well, but it’s great to come out with a win,” she said.
McKenna said cohesiveness was a particular concern.
“We just need to work on playing as a team, moving as a unit and moving up as a team,” she said. “There were big gaps between our strikers and the rest of our team, and that just can’t happen.”
The Gaels took to the Richardson Stadium pitch in freezing conditions, but it didn’t take them long to get fired up. Defender Brie Shaw headed home a Kelli Chamberlain corner kick just six minutes into the game to give Queen’s a 1-0 lead that they would never surrender.
McKenna said the team was prepared for the weather, so it didn’t affect them unduly.
“Generally it’s pretty cold near the end of our season,” she said.
Shaw said the team’s success on through balls was a key part of their win.
“We got on to the ball a lot and made those good penetrating runs and got in behind their defence,” she said.
The rest of the afternoon was representative of the Gaels’ season,. They controlled most of the play and created a plethora of offensive chances but couldn’t find the net again until Jen Hutchinson added a late insurance goal in second-half stoppage time. Nipissing had their chances as well and hit the crossbar late in the second half, but Shaw said she wasn’t worried.
“At the end, you just know all you have to do is play safe and get it out,” she said. “That’s all you kind of have in your mind.”
Head coach Dave McDowell said he wasn’t thrilled with the team’s play, but he was happy to get the result.
“We maybe didn’t play very well at all, but we did manage to find a way to get the win, and I think that’s the most important thing,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t play very well and we lost and, this year, we didn’t play very well and we won, so I think that’s a good sign.”
McDowell said there are no easy answers as to what went wrong.
“It’s very hard to pinpoint why we were kind of as flat as we were and struggled as much as we did,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a young team reacting to their first playoff game or what it was. It’s a bit frustrating, quite honestly.”
McDowell said the team needs to control the ball more effectively throughout the game, but they improved in the second half.
“We struggled to keep possession and our work rate wasn’t where it normally is in terms of keeping our shape,” he said. “We really emphasized that fairly vocally at halftime and they did a better job of that in the second half, but we really struggled to link passes.”
McDowell said the team needs to improve its finishing and put its chances in the back of the net.
“We’re inches away from scoring on a bunch of them,” he said. “Absolutely, it’s frustrating.”
McDowell said the Gaels will need to return to the fundamentals to continue their playoff run.
“We need to get back to doing the things that made us successful over the past week and a half or past two weeks: our shape, our individual defending, some of the pressure we had on teams and keeping the ball.”
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