Mustangs Magic Runs Out in OUA Final
Western Mustangs Women's SoccerEva Nagel
Regardless of the outcome in the OUA Women's Soccer Final between the Ottawa Gee Gees and the Western Mustangs, both teams were guaranteed of a place in the national playoffs beginning this Thursday in the nation's capital. But yesterday afternoon, both teams played like it was the U Sports Final, leaving their hearts out on the pitch by the end of 90 minutes. Unfortunately, the visiting Gee Gees spoiled a potential Western home crowd celebration by defeating the Mustangs, 1-0.
By all accounts, Ottawa either deserved to win the game by a larger margin (prevented by the skill of goalie Megan Girardi and the on-field leadership of 5th year veteran Julia Crnjac), or should have been playing a handful down due to the seeming hockey-like nature of many of the tackles. But that's up to the referee's discretion and at the end of the day, one goal was all that was needed to send the provincial trophy on the team bus headed to Ottawa.
The first half saw constant offensive zone pressure by the Gee Gees, who managed 5 shots, 4 of them on net. The majority of the Ottawa barrage tested Girardi's poise in net. The purple & white was frequently pushed to the back end, the defense stretched very thin. The momentum switched somewhat when in the 30th minute, Katrina Giantsopoulo was subbed off, with Crnjac taking her place. The energy she brought on the field was very apparent, her teammates feeding off her attacking efforts. In the 38th minute, Western's Kendra Martlatt was given a yellow card by the official, which was the only booking in the half. However, the first 45 was littered with fouls on both sides, 9 for Western and 7 for Ottawa. The teams headed off at the halftime whistle, with tensions simmering all the while.
The second half repeated the majority of the first's trends, with two slight differences. The first is that the Gee Gees were no longer being given the benefit of the doubt on challenges, with three Ottawa players receiving yellows (along with Mustang Giantsopoulo). The second is outside of two late shots on net, play remained inside Western's defensive zone for almost the entire 45 minutes. Girardi was again tested throughout, making a notable point blank stop on Ottawa's Katherine Bearne at 61:51. Just three minutes later however, Bearne punched a shot past the home netminder, giving the the visitors a 1-0 advantage at 64:58. Miranda Smith and Delaney Rickert-Hall earned the assists As soon as the ball touched the back of the net, the Gee Gees slowed the game down to a crawl, playing keep-away from the Mustangs who were now chasing the clock. It wasn't until around the 80th minute that Western mounted offense into the Ottawa half. Miranda Smith was shown a yellow just outside the visiting penalty area, giving the purple & white a golden chance to tie the score. It was not to be, as Nikki Balachorek's free kick sailed just over the cross bar. A couple minutes later the final whistle blew, sending Ottawa's contingent streaming on to the field in celebration.