Royals women’s soccer fall short at Nationals
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
Heading into the CCAA National Championships, I had the Royals slated for Bronze favourites, do to their tough group draw. Being drawn in the same group as the three time defending champions is bad for any team’s health in a double elimination competition.
As expected, their first match against the NAIT Ooks was a difficult one. A first half full of nerves and broken plays saw neither side able to grab an edge. But after halftime, it was like a whole new game. The field opened up for both teams. The Ooks had a couple of beautiful chances, but Alexa Gazzola stole the show with brilliant saves to keep the Royals in the game. Moments later, Martina Pettenon would convert on an opportunity for the Royals to give them the lead. Her goal would stand as the game winner as the Royals guided their lead to a win. For her role in helping the Royals stay afloat, Michelle Wessa was named the player of the game.
Next up were the dreaded Elans de Garneau. The Quebec giants had made a name for themselves throughout the years, and I was always going to be a challenge upsetting them. Playing some of their best football this season, the Royals showed that they were more than ready to take on the giants of Quebec. An exciting first half of action saw both keepers called upon to make big saves to keep the scored time going into halftime.
Like the Royals do, their offence continued to press Garneau’s defence in the second half. However, they couldn’t find the openings that they needed. Just as the match looked to be heading into extra time, Garneau found their goal. A speedy Judy Gagnon slipped past the Royals and delivered the game winner. The Royals were unable to recover, and dropped the game 1-0 to Garneau. Alexa Gazzola was named player of the game for her efforts on the field.
Sent into the Bronze medal bracket, the Royals played the Algonquin Thunder. Despite being in the Bronze bracket, the Thunder were still a dangerous team. They showed the Royals exactly why early into the game, picking up two goals in the span of five minutes in the first half. Not the start that the Royals were looking for.
Forced to play catch up for the rest of the match, the Royals were always on the back foot. All the Thunder had to do was park the bus and watch the Royals struggle, but class to them, the Thunder went out looking for a third. They were never able to find the third goal, but neither were the Royals. For the first time, the Royals looked like they were outclass as they dropped the game 2-0. Sonali Dholliwar was named the player of the game for the Royals.
With a medal out of contention, the only thing left for the Royals was a concession match to see who would finish higher in the tournament. Credit to the Royals though. Where many teams would just toss in the towel, the team kept going. In a controversy filled match against the GRPC Wolves, the Royals emerged victorious with a 1-0 win. Michelle Wessa capped off her career with another player of the game award, and the Royals finished 5th at the tournament.
Despite this being the team’s worse finish in three years, the team will look to this year as a growing opportunity. Next year, the Royals host the tournament, and the women have a ticket into the competition. As the Mariners showed this year, winning on home soil is the best feeling in the world.