On an afternoon when the weather and field conditions were less than ideal, the fourth-ranked York Lions women’s soccer team overcame both the elements and the nation’s top team, the Ottawa Gee-Gees, Sunday to capture its first Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championship and a berth in the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) finals in Edmonton.
Kyla Jones made the game’s lone goal, her team-leading sixth of the year, while keeper Aurelea Gumiela made eight saves to shut out the OUA’s top scoring team, 1-0, in St. Catharines. York defender Jodie Williams (right) was named the championship MVP.
Even though the pitch was soggy and slick, the greatest challenge for both teams came from the blustery wind, which at times gusted in excess of 70 km/h. In the opening half, Ottawa played with the wind at its back and ended up outshooting York 5-0. York’s best scoring chance came early on when Lions striker Nicole Burling chipped the ball over Gee-Gees goalie Kat Vulic but, with the wind pushing the ball to the edge of the box and Vulic scrambling back to the goal, Burling kicked into the side of the net.
Minutes after York generated its best scoring chance of the half, the Gee-Gees responded with theirs on a long strike from fifth-year midfielder Laurie Hinks that sailed dangerously towards the goal. Gumiela was kept busy all half, making five saves and controlling multiple loose balls that rolled into the box. Ottawa’s first team OUA All-Star, midfielder Krista Powers, was kept in check in the opening half by Lions All-Star defender Meghan Smith. Starting the game on the right side, Powers couldn’t create any space for herself and was continually challenged whenever she touched the ball.
The second half nearly started in disaster for the Lions when a miscue between Gumiela and a pair of defenders allowed Powers to get her head on a cross that had to be cleared from harm’s way by 2004-2005 North-South Rookie of the Year Ashley DePalma. From there, the Lions took advantage playing with the wind. The first real attempt on goal came from a direct kick from well out by OUA All-Star defender Williams. The wind pushed the ball towards the top right corner of the net and Vulic had to dive to punch the ball out of play. Minutes later, DePalma curled a cross into the box that skipped on the slick surface and was mishandled by Vulic. Jones, rushing in off the far wing, pounced on the loose ball and deposited her sixth of the season into the Ottawa goal.
Gee-Gees centre midfielder Dominik Bertrand, a five goal scorer this year, was shadowed and shutdown by North-South Player of the Year Kristy deVries during the entire game and frustration was beginning to get the better of her. In the 64th minute, Bertrand was booked after complaining about foul calls.
Ottawa’s 14-goal scorer Valeria May, also had difficulty generating scoring chances. Williams was again stalwart on defence, neutralizing the OUA’s leading scorer, winning nearly ever challenge she made.
In an attempt to open up some room for Powers and penetrate the Lions’ defensive back four, she was moved to the left side in the second half. The result remained the same however, as the duo of DePalma and Natasha Jacinto limited the talented midfielder to a single long range attempt with under 10 minutes to play.
The Lions’ solid team defence, outstanding hustle and determination proved the difference in a tightly contested game. The loss for Ottawa was its first of the year, while the Lions earned their 10th straight victory. The Lions have only allowed a single goal in the postseason and have outscored their opposition 19-1 in their last nine games.
Both teams now prepare for the CIS Championships to be held this weekend in Edmonton. York’s first game will be Thursday against fifth-ranked Canada West silver medalist Victoria Vikes. Ottawa will face the Atlantic University Sport Champion Cape Breton Capers later in the day.
This article was submitted to YFile by Stephen Reid, sports information assistant in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences.