With four games remaining and a total of 12 points up for grabs, McMaster’s women’s soccer team heads into the critical stretch of their season.
At first blush, their 3-6-3 record is uninspiring. Given their circumstances, it is a respectable tally and sets them up to be only one point out of the playoffs.
Mac grabbed two points this weekend by drawing No. 5 York and No. 7 Laurier 0-0 in both games. The ability to hold opposing offences at bay has put McMaster in the thick of the playoff hunt. Captain Sophie Ykema said the team was prepared for the powerhouses and adjusted accordingly.
“We changed our formation for the two games. We were aware of the threats that Laurier and York had,” said Ykema.
Nicole Pacheco, Kelsey Orlando, Steph Davis, and Ykema, along with other rotating pieces, helped comprise the back line in front of star keeper Brittany Duffey.
The path to OUA playoffs runs through a handful of away games. Trips to Western, Windsor and Algoma make up the final games of the 2014 campaign. Those first two tests will be tough – Western is ranked No. 8 in the CIS, Windsor is the second game of a back-to-back – but the double-header is a nearly guaranteed six points.
“Our goal this weekend is not to drop any points,” said Ykema. “Against Western, we recognize they are one of the best teams in the OUA and in Canada, so we’re going to try to play them similarly to how we handled York and Laurier.”
In 12 games, Algoma has conceded 128 goals against, or 10.6 goals per game.
But meanwhile, McMaster has struggled to score, only finding the back of the net nine times in their 12 games.
The women’s squad controls their own fate, with only five points separating them from fourth place. Final standing position will not matter as much as it has in past years as the top-three teams – York, Western, Laurier, respectively – are all jockeying for position and are well clear of the pack.
Mac would prefer an easier quarterfinal game, should they get there, but the team beams confidence about any playoff situation.
“We’re trying to sneak into that fifth spot, where we’d love to play Windsor on the road,” said Ykema. “We think we could win a game against Laurier, Western or York, but we’d rather those teams beat each other up and we come in for the next round.”
There’s an added bonus with having the weak Algoma squad on the last weekend of the regular season, as the team will have an opportunity to get its offence going.
Players are slowly getting back to full fitness and despite an underwhelming regular season, McMaster could be poised to make some noise in late October.