In a weekend that saw success across Marauder athletics, one team walked away empty-handed. McMaster’s women’s soccer team finished fourth in the OUA Final Four this weekend after being ousted in penalty kicks by the Queen’s Gaels.
The Maroon and Grey squeaked their way into the Final Four after a penalty kick victory over the Western Mustangs, giving them fourth seed in the championship tournament. Their first opponent was the Ottawa Gee-Gees, the number-one ranked team in the nation.
Ottawa, who hosted the tournament, came out of the gate flat and unable to muster any real offense. Mac suffered from the same problem as both squads felt each other out for the duration of the first half. The winner of the half would be the Gee-Gees, who headed to the locker room with three shots on goal in comparison to zero attempts on target from Mac.
Ottawa would storm out in the second half, looking to separate from the Marauders. Mac’s defensive line held their own until the 68th minute, when a Gee-Gee striker put away the game’s lone goal off a cross.
The Ottawa team maintained pressure in Mac’s defensive third. Defensive work and another top-notch performance from Brittany Duffey was key to keeping the Maroon and Grey deficit at one.
With the game coming to a close, McMaster found another gear and mounted an offensive attack to try to tie the game. But Mac’s first and final shot of the game would be turned aside by the Gee-Gee keeper and the Marauders found themselves on the wrong end of a 1-0 result.
The loss in the semi-final meant a place in the OUA Bronze medal match, a game all too familiar to the Maroon women. In 2011, the team lost 4-0 to the Gee-Gees. The year before, Mac lost 2-1 to the same. This year’s match would be a second chance for the team, where they met the Queen’s Gaels for bronze and a berth in the CIS tournament.
However, the Gaels found themselves in a new position. After two straight OUA Finals and CIS Championship victories, the Gaels were now battling with an unranked team just to make it back to the tournament.
The third-place match would turn into a dogfight early. Both teams were out to prove themselves and started the game with high energy and intensity. McMaster’s efforts would be vindicated first, with a goal in the 37th minute. A shot from Stephanie Davis found the back of the Gaels’ net and the Marauders took an early lead.
Mac would again rely on its defense to carry them, and Duffey would put together a strong performance to maintain the lead through the 45th minute whistle.
Following the half, Queen’s attempts to manufacture offense proved futile with Cristina Leonardelli and company standing tall against the Gaels. As the game reached the final minutes, the Gaels pushed nearly their entire team into the offensive third of the field. Their last-ditch effort at tying the game ended successfully, as a ball would manage to bounce off a number of players and find Mac’s mesh.
For the second time in three games, McMaster was headed to overtime. With the extra 30 minutes settling nothing, Mac again settled for penalty kicks. Queen’s also had experience in penalty shootouts after losing to Laurier in their OUA semi-final.
Both keepers put in an outstanding effort, with each side saving two shots. The eighth Gael shooter would beat Duffey and put the pressure on McMaster to prolong the shootout. A save from the Gael keeper sealed the victory for Queen’s and gave Mac their third straight loss in OUA bronze medal matches.
Queen’s, Laurier and Ottawa are headed to the CIS Championships to compete for the Gladys Bean Memorial Trophy.
While McMaster’s season ended with a disappointing result, this year had its fair share of highlights. A defeat of the Laurier Golden Hawks gave the team confidence in the middle of the regular season, and the squad would maintain a high level of play until the final minute of the bronze medal match.
The Maroon and Grey will lose two major pieces to graduation this year. Team captain Melanie Van Der Hoop finishes her career with McMaster with 64 games played and three OUA All-Star nominations. Van Der Hoop will be remembered as a leader for this year’s team, providing a calm and strong presence in midfield. Her consistent level of play will be missed greatly as the program moves forward.
Cristina Leonardelli was a defensive rock for McMaster and could be relied on to bring energy to Mac’s back four. In her time at Mac, she played 59 games. The defender walks away from the program with two OUA All-Star nominations. Coach Brett Mosin has a major hole to fill defensively with Leonardelli’s graduation.
McMaster’s roster is filled with players in the middle of their undergraduate careers, and the playoff experience will pay dividends in the coming years. The youthful squad’s climb to the top of the OUA has already started and will continue in 2013.