They hold the keys to Memorial University’s best chance at an Atlantic University Sport championship this season, but the Sea-Hawks’ women’s soccer players aren’t overwhelmed this weekend with the pressure of bringing another conference soccer championship back home to St. John’s.
“MUN athletics and Karen (Murphy, the university’s Athletics Director), in particular, have really stepped up their game in recent years, so these girls are made to feel like winners, to feel like that they can play with anybody no matter what, since they’ve been in the program,” said Sea-Hawks coach Mike Power.
“I wouldn’t even say the girls recognize that’s an added pressure. They just know they’re 20 girls — all Newfoundlanders — who are a good squad.
“A lot have won medals at national championships before. Some have as many as three national medals at club championships and six or eight are former AUS champions. They know that they can play with anybody.”
The Sea-Hawks, winners of the 2014 conference championship, are in Antigonish, N.S., for the AUS women’s soccer championship, which opened Thursday night. MUN had a first-round bye as a result of a second-place regular-season finish.
“I wouldn’t even say the girls recognize (any) added pressure. They just know they’re 20 girls — all Newfoundlanders — who are a good squad. A lot have won medals at national championships before. Some have as many as three national medals at club championships and six or eight are former AUS champions. They know that they can play with anybody.”
The Lady Birds went 7-1-4 this season. Cape Breton, which also had an opening-round bye, was undefeated, winning 11 games and tying another.
One of the Capers’ victories was a 5-0 thumping of the Sea-Hawks in Sydney, N.S., last month.
“We’re a wise enough group, a savvy enough group to know that’s not going to define us,” Power said. “At the end of the day, it was a bad day. These things happen. It’s not something we saw coming, and even looking back at it now, it’s just an anomaly.
“It’s not something we stress about or worry about. We know that we can compete with anyone. I don’t think you’ll see a repeat of that.
“We’ll be more than prepared and maybe a little bit hungrier to hopefully get another pop at them in the final.”
The loss to Cape Breton might have turned around the Sea-Hawks’ season, as Memorial didn’t allow a goal for the rest of the year.
The Sea-Hawks had an amazing 10 shutouts in 12 games, all posted by rookie keeper Sydney Walsh, named a second-team conference all-star earlier this week,
Power said the shutout streak was “definitely” a team statistic.
The Sea-Hawks’ 26 goals for were second-most in the league, next to Cape Breton’s 50, and the six goals against were second-fewest to the four Cape Breton allowed.
“As a unit, the girls are doing really defensively. But we know there are good opponents and good players who can break through… girls have that confidence in Sydney behind them, which gives them even more belief in our team defensive unit.
“We’re definitely known as an offensive squad, but I’ve been impressed with our defensive record this season,” Power said.
Memorial will play 7:30 p.m. (NL time) today against against fourth-seeded Acadia, which downed fifth-ranked St. Francis Xavier 2-0 in one Thursday quarter-final. In the other, sixth-seeded UNB got by the third-place Dalhousie Tigers 3-2 in a game decided by penalty kicks. That puts the Varsity Reds into a semifinal match against the Capers.