By Dylan Matthias
There will be some fresh blood at nationals this year. Trinity Western and Dalhousie both lost semi-final draws Saturday afternoon. The Canada West favourites Alberta were done in by UBC. The UFV Cascades will continue a miracle season in PEI.
In AUS play, the Dalhousie Tigers are out of the Atlantic University Sport women's soccer playoffs. Goals by Kyla Cunningham in the 11th minute and Nicholle Morrison in the 19th minute gave the Capers a 2-0 win and another berth at nationals for a young team that doesn't look so young.
"Every game we win at this point gives us some great experience," said Capers coach Ness Timmons. "But our goal is to win the national title, too."
In the other semi-final the Saint Mary's Huskies were defeated 4-2 on penalties by the UPEI Panthers after drawing 1-1 through 120 minutes.
The Tigers came out flat and showed it immediately. Rieka Santilli, who broke her leg two months ago, was included in the starting line-up and looked off the pace immediately.
After trading corners with the Capers for the first ten minutes, a simple Cape Breton short corner undid a listless Dalhousie defense. Tara Rogers took to ball and crossed to Cunningham at the back post for an easy goal with Amanda Henry left marking an invisible defender six feet away as the ball sailed over her head.
Santilli left the game in the 18th minute after landing awkwardly on her leg. She didn't bother stopping at the bench on her way to the tunnel. She was limping.
"I just really wanted to win… I felt really good," said Santilli. "And then I just landed on it funny again on my first touch and just injured it."
As Santilli walked off, the Capers swung another cross into the Dal box and again the back four were caught ball-watching as Morrison smashed home the perfect volley unmarked from six yards out.
Kaelyn Burke and Sarah Mitchell were at each other's throats all evening, pushing, shoving and lunging at each other on the wing from the first whistle. Burke was booked for hacking Mitchell down from behind in the first half.
The Tigers created little in the second half, pushing more bodies forwards but finding themselves consistently incapable of making a cutting pass into space. The Capers held fast defensively and attacked Dal on the break.
Burke was sent off in the 80th minute with a second yellow, for a two-footed tackle from behind 19 yards from her own goal.
Despite the advantage and some considerable pressure, the Tigers never looked like scoring; even when they hit the cross-bar late it was with a distinct air of consolation. The pressure reeked of desperation that everyone–including the Tigers–knew would hardly be enough to overturn the 2-0 deficit.
"Goals don't come easy in this game. Some days they can be awful hard to find," said Dalhousie coach Jack Hutchison. "Sometimes they don't come when you need them.
"They just gotta come and relax and play and not worry about the end result. We end up getting that bye and waiting for that team, maybe what we gotta do is come in three to six and try to play it that way, 'cause this waiting is awful hard."
Earlier in the day, it was the underdog Huskies who dominated the top-seeded UPEI Panthers.
The first half was a gritty and physical affair, with long balls and set pieces providing the bulk of the chances. Sara Stewart struggled to cope with long passes forwards to Burgess. It would, in fact, be a difficult evening for Stewart.
The Huskies were dealt a blow of their own in the 20th minute when Nicole Roberts caught influential winger Heidi Pentz in midfield. Pentz fell awkwardly and limped off with a knee injury.
The Panthers offence was misfiring in the first half. Their 4-3-3 formation left a lot of space between wide players and central players and passes were consistently overhit on the wet surface.
It was Allyson Seviour's gaffe that led to the opener early in the second half. She watched a routine bouncing long ball bounce right on by her and then watched Monica Diab fly past her and onto the bouncing ball she had been watching. She then watched Diab float a shot past Chanelle Roy to give SMU a lead against the tournament favourites.
Three minutes lates, Seviour and Stewart combined their ball-watching talents again as Burgess broke past them. But for some strong defending by Seviour as she raced to get back into the play SMU could have made it 2-0.
Sarah Stanley scored an equally improbably equalizer in the 75th minute, bundling a Justine Caldwell rebound inches over the line.
Extra-time produced few real chances and the teams traded penalties until the fourth shooter, with each team missing once. Then rookie Sophie Langille-Broderick stepped up for SMU and drilled it straight at Roy. Chelsie McInnis scored her next shot to win it.
In Canada West Final Four playoffs it was also a bad day for favoured teams. Alberta were downed in extra-time by the UBC Thunderbirds and Trinity Western put in a shocker, losing on penalties to the UFV Cascades.
The only favoured team to win easily was Queen's, who beat McMaster 3-0 in OUA playoffs thanks to goals from Kelli Chamberlain, Mary Kampman and Jacqueline Tessier. Laurier beat Ottawa 2-1, with all the goals coming in the first half. Ali McKee and Kate Landry cancelled each other's goals out before Alyssa Lagonia won it in the 43rd minute.
–Dylan Matthias is the incoming sports editor at the Dalhousie Gazette. He runs Dal Soccer Live on the side to provide more in-depth coverage of AUS and ACAA soccer. He has been a Toronto FC fan since Danny Dichio scored the team's first ever goal. It showed him the magic of soccer.