Playoff action hit Ron Joyce Stadium for the first time this athletic season with the McMaster Marauders women’s soccer team hosting the UOIT Ridgebacks in the first round of OUA Playoffs.

The Wednesday afternoon game ended 2-1 in favour of the Marauders, but the game was a tale of two halves.

McMaster struck early in the game off of a corner kick, with Kathleen Perri putting away the ball to earn the lead. The first goal would give the team confidence, and the Maroon and Grey controlled the half with good passing and a maintained presence in the UOIT defensive third of the pitch.

Throughout the first, Mac would send long passes wide with the intent to find forward Stephanie Davis in the box. The Marauders offense would create a number of chances resulting with shots on target, including a hard strike from Emma Mangialardi that was stopped by the UOIT keeper. At the first half whistle, Mac led 1-0 and had all the momentum in their favour.

UOIT’s defensive would be feel the pressure early in the first half with the long ball passing leading to more offensive opportunities. In the 59th minute, Mangialardi received the ball just right of the 18-yard box and cut inside, edging the ball past a sprawling defender. The UOIT player caught Mangialardi’s leg and drew a foul in the box to give McMaster a penalty kick and the opportunity to push the lead to two.

Mel Van Der Hoop confidently put away the penalty and McMaster held a daunting lead. The Ridgebacks did not back down, though, and they controlled the game from this point on, keeping possession in the McMaster half. UOIT would attempt to attack from the wings, sending crosses to the back post to try to narrow Mac’s lead.

Their attempts would be vindicated after a cross found a UOIT player just inside the 18. Her shot would bounce off of defender Cristina Leonardelli and into the mesh at the back of the Marauder’s net.

Re-energized by the goal, the Ridgebacks would continue to put up a fight and challenge the Marauders for every ball. The tension on the field was tangible, with nearly every battle for the ball ending with someone on the ground. The intensity would reach a plateau when Mangialardi and her defender both earned yellow cards because of dangerous tackles from either side.

But Leonardelli and her defensive crew were solid for the Maroon and Grey, preserving the 2-1 lead.

The victory sends McMaster to the OUA quarterfinals. The Marauders take on the Western Mustangs, with whom they’ve split their regular season games. Mac took their most recent match up with a score of 1-0. The game is set for 1 p.m. in London, Ont.

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