UBC Still Number 1… But Changes In The U SPORTS Top 10
The first month of the U Sports Women’s Soccer season, (really the first five weeks), have had some interesting stories with the UBC Thunderbirds being the “wire to wire” leader so far, as we reach the half way point of the season. There are some great stories developing, so let’s take a look and create some chatter.to see who will be going to Laval November 10th to the 13th at TELUS-UL Stadium.
The Canada West Leaders the UBC Thunderbirds have established themselves as the “team to beat” in the west and probably across the country in the last month. With a 10-1 record, and their only blemish to the University of Calgary 3-2 on September 25th, they’ve had a couple of blow outs but they have had to work hard in the Pacific division to get the points. Which really speaks to the quality of Canada West when you have to fight game in and game out to get results. The big thing that worries coaches, is down the road when you have to find something extra at Nationals. But then again, this is what “Champions are made of”.
Seventh year head coach Jesse Symons, has to be optimistic about the team’s chances to win their eighth U Sports Women’s Soccer Championship for the UBC women’s soccer program after leading the Pacific division this year, hoping to repeat the Thunderbirds’ 2019 U SPORTS Women’s Soccer Championship, the seventh in the school’s history.
Second place Trinity Western are now sitting at Number 4 in the country after the ascension of Ottawa U and Queen’s to position’s 2 and 3 respectively. TWU has had a tough task all season so far trying to break through to the number 1 spot, but this is kind of difficult when the country’s number one team is in you conference and division. Add to that you lose to the number one team your second game of the season, then you have an up hill battle. But if there is anyone who can guide a team to a break through, it would be TWU Head Coach Graham Roxborough.
Since taking over in 1999 Coach Roxborough has guided the Spartans to five U SPORTS national championships (2004, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013) and eight Canada West gold medals (2004, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2017 and 2018). Since 2003, Roxborough has led TWU to the Canada West Final Four every year and, from 2010 to 2018, the Spartans appeared in the Canada West championship match in eight consecutive seasons. If there is anyone who can prepare their team it would be Roxborough.
Oh and then there are just the number 5 ranked reigning U Sports National Champion and Prairie Division leaders, the MacEwan Griffins. Coach Dean Cordeiro’s charges have a division leading 8-2 record in the Prairie division and their only losses have come to second place Alberta in the rubber match in the second game of the season and to Number 1 UBC. They are on a six game win streak and with 15 players from last year’s National Championship squad, the culture of winning still exists to get the Griffins back to the National tournament.
And last but not least, the University of Calgary checks in at number 10. Coach Diogo Raposo’s team sits third in the Pacific with a 6-3-1 record with their losses coming to Alberta, MacEwan and Trinity Western. Not bad company to lose to, but the Dinos are the only team this season to upset the number 1 UBC Thunderbirds, so there is definitely some “bang for their buck” with the Dinos. They have a back to back against UNBC this weekend, so all they have to do is maintain their position by winning out. .
The next month should be fun in the West.
The OUA is always interesting at this time of year and since this year is the first year since 2019 that there has been a full schedule, things are shaping up as the typical exciting action.
Now that we are slipping into the full swing of the season, it looks like “same old same old” with the usual suspects or Ottawa U, Queens and Western holding familiar spots in the rankings. The number 2 Ottawa Gee-Gee’s (7-1-1) slide up one position to improve their Top 10 ranking as do the undefeated number 3 Queen’s Gaels (5-0-2) to sit close behind Ottawa to place third. Leading the OUA West, the number 9 Western Mustangs (7-1-1) enter the Top 10 following a 2-1 road win over the division’s second-ranked team, the Guelph Gryphons, on Friday.
For coach Steve Johnson of Ottawa U, and Coach Dave McDowell of Queens, this may appear to be habit forming with their teams always in the top 10 nationally, especially in the talent rich OUA, part of being successful is that addictive thirst that is never quenched by positive results, but the road to success is full of opponents who want the same things and are quite happy to take it from them given the opportunity. Martin Painter’s number 10 OUA West leading Western, is also looking to make their mark. Painter is known for disciplined smart teams and this year they can’t really be counted out when the playoffs come.
These three nationally ranked contenders know that the challenges from U of T, York and Guelph will test them to get out of the OUA, but whomever comes out will only seasoned for the National tournament in Laval in a month’s time, well if they are not too beaten up getting out of the OUA.
In the AUS, shots don’t get past Cape Breton goalkeeper Hayley Kardass as number 8 Cape Breton Capers (5-0-0) added another win to their undefeated shutout season following Acadia’s first loss (1-0) at Raymond Field in Wolfville, N.S., on Friday. The fourth-year Bachelor of Science student from Halifax, N.S., has a clean sheet with 12 saves over five games, leading U SPORTS women’s soccer in goals-against this season.
It was a rough weekend for the Acadia Women who started the weekend ranked 8th nationally, now find themselves sitting in fifth in the AUS at (3-2) with a 1-0 loss to the aforementioned Cape Breton Capers (5-0) on Saturday and then 2-1 loss to Dalhousie (4-0-2) on Sunday. This kind of thing happens to good teams and sometimes as your team’s rhythm just interrupted.
In the game at Dalhousie, the first few forays forward went to the visitors on Sunday as Acadia moved the ball well all half long and found a couple goal-scoring chances in both the opening and closing 15 minutes of the first half.
The first real chance fell to Acadia in the 11th minute when Dalhousie’s goalkeeper Emily Toth (Markham, ON) made a solid double save to deny the Axewomen.
Only four minutes later Dalhousie’s focus on quick counter attacks paid off when Kaitlyn Clarke (Edmonton, AB) received the ball on the turn and played in Elise Evans (Toronto, ON). Evans found themselves one-on-one with the goalkeeper and slotted the ball into the back of the net to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
The Tigers then doubled their lead in the 28th minute when a spell of good pressure eventually led to a mix-up in the Acadia box. When the ball dropped in the area it was Alyson Bodner (Edmonton, AB) who was quickest to poke it home.
In the 35th minute Acadia had a chance to half the deficit when a quick break forward and a couple nice passes teed up Grace Longley (Bedford, NS) at the top of the box, but her shot went just over the bar.
Acadia continued to move the ball well as a team and their deepest midfield, Madyson Harris (Wolfville, NS), was a big part of that. It was no surprise then to see Harris make a further imprint on the game when she was the quickest to react to the loose ball in the Dalhousie box in the 44th minute. Harris’ goal just before the halftime whistle made it 2-1 for the Tigers at the break.
A potential Acadia goal just a minute later was waved off for offside in what was essentially the last action of the first half.
The second half saw both teams share possession with both defensive lines holding strong. As the minutes ticked on, the Axewomen increased the pressure on the Tigers.
The Tigers made several defensive substitutions to lock down the win. Emily Tooth (Markham, Ont.) got her second win of the season, backstopping Dalhousie with five saves.
Coach Amit Batra has his work cut out for him to refocus the group for their Thursday tilt at home versus UPEI. There was bound to be some disruptions in every camp with the storms that battered the East Coast recently, but this is where coaches get to do what they do and navigate the team through rough waters. Look for Acadia to back to their winning ways on Thursday.
It appears this year that the class of the RSEQ are number 6 Laval Rouge et Or the National tournament hosts, and Les Carabins de Montreal at number 7.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Rouge et Or swept the Montreal Carabins in the regular season. With five games to play on the regular schedule, the Number 6 Rouge et Or signed their most important victory of the season by overthrowing the sworn enemies, on their own turf, 2-1 on Sunday afternoon.
With this important victory, the Rouge et Or alone regain first place in the RSEQ, ahead of these same Carabins. Coach David Desloges’ proteges show a record of 8 wins and one loss this season.
Laval, the National Championship hosts sit at the top of the division with their only loss coming to UQAM.
For Montreal, the setback puts head Coach Kevin McConnell’s team in second place overall, three points behind their rivals from Quebec with their only two losses coming from Laval.
This sets up a juicy rematch if it comes to fruition down the road between the Provincial rivals in not only in the RSEQ playoffs, but also potentially at the National tournament. This is going to be fun. As we all know, Laval has punched their ticket to the dance, but will it be Montreal, or a dark horse of either McGill, UQAM or UQTR?
Four weeks in, (okay five), and five weeks to go to the National tournament. Two teams in the top 10 get left out and the big question is who will it be?
Stay tuned to a university channel near you.