The women’s soccer team began their regular-season campaign with a bang, notching a 2-0 road victory over the Royal Military College Paladins Wednesday night at RMC.
RMC knocked Queen’s out of the playoffs last year with a 2-0 first-round victory, but fourth-year defender Katie Dalziel said the Gaels weren’t motivated by revenge, citing the high turnover both sides faced in the off-season.
“We kind of went into this game thinking about forgetting about last year,” she said. “We have a whole new team, they have new players. It’s a new season.”
Many of Queen’s players were in their first regular-season match for the Gaels, and Dalziel said she was impressed with the young recruits.
“The rookies were fantastic,” she said. “Our rookies are definitely stepping up, so it’s been awesome.”
Dalziel said she doesn’t foresee any problems arising from the rookies’ lack of experience at the CIS level.
“They’re all very, very talented girls and they should be able to step up and play at this level,” she said.
Queen’s started off with a good deal of offensive pressure, but the Paladins weathered the early storm with some solid defence and the game developed into a midfield battle.
The Gaels broke through towards the end of the first half. A corner kick bounced through RMC’s six-yard box and fell to veteran striker Renee MacLellan, who drilled it home from close range.
Only two minutes later, rookie midfielder Stephanie Kletke added a second goal for the Gaels with a lucky bounce on a long shot.
The Gaels continued to press, and created several more chances off slashing wing attacks and crosses into the RMC 16-yard box. They shot several balls wide and RMC keeper Veronique Lussier made some tremendous saves to keep the Paladins in the match, including a diving effort to punch a 20-yard blast from Mary Kampman over the crossbar.
Veteran keeper Katie McKenna recorded the shutout for the Gaels.
Despite the strong opening performance, Queen’s head coach Dave McDowell said it’s still too soon to tell how the team will do this year, given its youth.
“We’re incredibly young,” he said. “We started seven first-year players. I thought they did really well. We pushed the ball around well, we maybe didn’t finish as well as we could, but we had tons of crosses and tons of good ideas.”
He said there’s still plenty of room for improvement, though.
“One of our goals is to grow from game to game because we are so young,” he said. “We may be young, but we want to be at a level where we’re not playing like a young team.”
McDowell said a couple of his rookies turned in exceptional performances.
“I thought Bri Shaw was really good at the back, and Jenny Hutchinson was very good out wide here in the second half,” he said. “They both did really well.”
McDowell said the team has a lot of potential.
“This group is a fantastic group,” he said. “I’m very excited about where we could be.”
This weekend, the team will host the Trent Excalibur Saturday at 3:15 p.m. at Richardson Stadium, and then travel to face the Carleton Ravens on Sunday.
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