After a stellar regular season, the Western women’s soccer team advanced to Ontario University Athletics playoffs — but fell short in the final four.
Undefeated but not perfect, the Mustangs had yet to lose a game leading up to the provincial playoffs.
Western University had high expectations. They were ranked seventh in Canada and first in the OUA west division heading into the Friday night’s game. But after a loss, they had just that night to turn it around for their next match.
Mustangs face challenge against Blues
In the final four, the Mustangs faced the University of Toronto Blues who were ranked second in the east league. Though they hadn’t played them in regular season, they knew the Blues would pose a substantial challenge.
“They [University of Toronto] are strong in goal, strong up front, they work very hard, they are well coached and well organized,” said Western head coach Martin Painter. “We knew it was going to be a challenging game.”
In the first half of the game, Western dominated Toronto and outshot the Blues 6–2. However, neither team could find the net.
The game was left scoreless at halftime.
Eager to break the deadlock, the Mustangs came back onto the field with high tenacity. But their energy was only to be matched by the Blues, which sent the game into overtime.
The first goal of the game came from Mustang forward Giulia Geraci. Geraci has been an absolutely dynamic player for the Mustangs all season and, in the 15th minute of play, she played the ball off of a corner kick to put the Mustangs on the board.
Just seconds after Geraci netted the ball, the Blues tied the score and the teams headed to a shoot-out. Geraci came in clutch and scored in the first round, followed by Melanie Walters who scored another for the Mustangs in the third round.
But this wasn’t enough, and the Blues bested the Mustangs by one goal in the shoot-out.
With this, the Mustangs walked off the field processing feelings of exhaustion and disappointment.
To their additional dismay, they faced an exceptionally quick turn around. After their game against Toronto was delayed by high winds, the Mustangs had less than 12 hours until their next game — leaving them a half day to recoup.
“The bronze medal game was very difficult to play,” said Painter. “We had 12 hours to rest and there was no way we could have been fully ready for that game.”
Taking the Gee-Gees on short rest
Still, the Mustangs made due and returned to the field to take on the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees at 11 a.m. the following day.
The Gee-Gees were quick to make their presence known: they scored within the first six minutes of play and put the Mustangs on chronic defence.
Veteran Keira Grein scored the Mustangs first goal which tied the game for a short period of time. But nearing the end of the first half, Western’s fatigue began to kick in and it showed.
In the first half, the Gee-Gees outshot the Mustangs 11–1 having netted two more goals before closing out the half.
Despite desperately battling to regroup, the score that stood at halftime, would remain for the rest of the game. The Gee-Gees took the bronze medal game 3–1, leaving the Mustangs in fourth.
It was a disappointing end for the team, but not enough to diminish the success they have experienced this season.
“I am very proud of what the team accomplished,” said Painter. An undefeated regular season, to only give up two goals in 14 games, there are a lot of things this group should be really proud of.”
As the team heads into their off-season, they move forward with high ambitions to right their wrongs, and to return to nationals next year.
Correction (Nov. 6, 9:32 p.m.): this article has been corrected to reflect that the team had a perfect regular season, not a perfect season.