MUN makes its first postseason appearance in five years when it faces UPEI in quarter-final round Friday
A few of the Memorial Sea-Hawks soccer players were wearing parkas during warm-ups on a cold Wednesday night at King George V Park, but there was no chance they were complaining about having to bundle up for a practice session.
Members of the Memorial Sea-Hawks women’s team were doing what they could to stay warm Wednesday night at King George V Park as the practised in advance of the AUS playoffs, beginning Friday in Moncton, N.B. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
For all but one of the players, this is the first time they’ve prepared for Atlantic University Sport (AUS) women's post-season play.
In what will be their first playoff appearance since 2009, the fifth-place Sea-Hawks (5-4-4) take on the fourth-place University of Prince Edward Island Panthers (6-3-4) in quarter-final play Friday morning in New Brunswick. While the championship is being hosted by Mount Allison University, the tournament will be played mainly on the artificial surface at the University of Moncton.
Friday’s winner will meet the first-place Cape Breton Capers (9-0-4) in the semifinals 2 p.m. Saturday. The Acadia Axewomen will play the host Mount Allison Mounties in the other quarterfinal match.
The championship final will begin Sunday on Moncton’s Rocky Stone field. All tournament games will be webcast at www.AUStv.ca
The last time the Sea-Hawks participated in the playoffs, MUN fell 2-0 to Cape Breton Capers in the quarter-finals when the Sea-Hawks hosted the 2009 AUS championship tourney.
Lauren Windsor, a midfielder from Mount Pearl, is the only player left from that last playoff team.
Windsor said she was always hopeful the team would get back to the playoffs.
“It’s finally happened, so it’s exciting,” Windsor said with a smile.
“It’s a very competitive league and the teams in the payoffs are that much more competitive, so we have to maintain our focus and play our best.”
Needless to say, the Lady Hawks are not looking past the Panthers, but Windsor said the team is confident going into the game against U.P.E.I.
“They are a good team, but we know we can definitely play with them and we’ve beaten them before,” said the biochemistry student.
“We’ve learned a lot about each other over the past year and we’re playing better now than we did at the start of the season.”
She cautioned that if MUN is going to win this weekend it needs to be “disciplined in defence and attacking.”
Windsor, who played in the local Breen’s Jubilee Trophy league with Mount Pearl and played on Newfoundland’s Canada Games team four years ago, said the AUS postseason is “a big deal” for her.
Memorial coach Walt Mavin admitted this is a good time of year for himself and, of course, his team.
“We knew coming into this year we had a good group of first-year players plus some key veterans returning. We were on the doorstep of making it (the playoffs) last year, so this is a big boost for the players,” he said.
“We’re in good spirits and we’re just looking to get started Friday.”
Mavin said you can expect anything this time of year.
“The points accumulated during the season mean nothing,” he said. “Everyone is on the same footing. It’s sudden-death and anything can happen.
And the MUN coach said it didn’t matter that his team squeaked into the playoffs.
The Sea-Hawks needed at least one point from their final two regular -season games to gain a berth. They got that point by playing St. Francis Xavier X-Women to a scoreless draw Sunday in Nova Scotia
“We know if we’d taken advantage of opportunities we had earlier in the season, we probably could have got in probably a little higher in the standings.
“We feel we belong, absolutely,” added the veteran MUN mentor.
As far as the Panthers are concerned, he noted “Both of us know each other. But I thought we did well in the game (where) we beat them.
“If we get some of our players going like Jane (Pope) and Jessie (Noseworthy) and a couple of others, we’re going to create (scoring) chances.
“You are only going to get a few of them, so you’ve got to bear down and take advantage of them.”
While the team hasn’t had almost no AUS playoff experience, he points out many of the players have competed in big games at age-group nationals and in local Jubilee Trophy competition.
“They’ve played under pressure before and I don’t think they will be fazed by the AUS playoffs,” he stated.
Mavin said the team has been stressing its coverage of the “defensive third” of the field the past couple of weeks.
“We want to make sure we stay composed around our own 18-yard box,” he said.
“This is why they play. We had a goal-setting session at the beginning of the season where we had one goal and that was to make the playoffs. We’ve achieved that goal.
“Our next goal is to beat P.E.I. Friday.
In fact, the MUN coach believes his team is capable of beating any team in the league in a sudden-death match.
Mavin wouldn’t go so far as to say his team should beat the Panthers, however.
Regardless, this is where the Sea-Hawks want to be at the time of the soccer season when no one really cares about the weather.
“We’re going in feeling that we can beat them,” said Mavin. “And I’m sure they (the Panthers) are thinking the same thing.”