Missed Chance: McMaster let playoff spot, home game, slip away

HAMILTON, ON – They entered decision day – the final day of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) regular season – with all to play for. Depending on their result and the outcomes elsewhere, the McMaster Marauders women’s soccer team could finish as high as fourth, hosting a home playoff match or as low as ninth, on the outside of the playoffs looking in.

In the end, their 1-0 defeat to the Rams – coupled with the York Lions comeback win over the Queen’s Gaels – meant that head coach Miranda Wiley’s first season at McMaster would not end in the playoffs. 

The Rams and Marauders had fought to a scoreless draw at Downsview Park only a few days earlier and both knew the stakes heading in. The Marauders needed a win or draw to secure a playoff spot. A loss might even be possible to clinch depending on the other games. The Rams needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. 

The Rams started the game like the team that needed the win, attacking the Marauders and creating chances early on. However, Marauders fifth-year goalkeeper Jayashree Pathak made crucial saves and pounced on loose balls to keep the game scoreless. As the first half went on, McMaster grew into the game and started creating some chances of their own, yet were unable to find the final touch. 

As the second half kicked off, the Marauders continued their strong play, keeping possession and looking for the game-breaking goal. However, with the Rams playing off the counter at times, there was a sense of danger, their speed and counterattacks creating half-openings of chances at goal. 

The Rams team huddles together to celebrate their win.
(Rick Zazulak)

The Rams finally found their breakthrough in the 79th minute as second-year forward Skylar Sheehan-Alleyene pounced on a breakaway and slotted it past Pathak into the net. Her Rams teammates mobbed her in celebration, knowing what that goal meant towards their playoff hopes. 

McMaster pressed in the last ten minutes and injury time, searching for that key equalizer. Suddenly, they had gone from knocking on the door searching for the goal to give them a home playoff game to fighting to prolong their season. The team brought on senior forward Amy Jenkins – who, along with Pathak and last year’s seniors, were honoured before the game as part of the senior’s day. 

The Marauders buzzed around, with shots from distance but unable to truly get past the Rams’ defence. Emilie Calabrese shot wide left and Jade Abreo had her shot saved by Rams goalie Elisa Lapadula. 

In a last-ditch attempt during injury time, they brought Pathak forward but were unable to threaten the Rams net. As the full-time whistle sounded, the Rams players jumped up in ecstasy while the Marauders players were relatively quiet. With the loss, their playoff fate was out of their hands and given that York had just defeated Queen’s moments earlier over 330 km away in Kingston, their season was over. 

At the end of the season, while Pathak and Jenkins will be gone, many others – including the large group of first and second-year players – will return with a(nother) year of OUA season experience under their belts. 

MEN: Marauders miss out on top spot 

Men's Soccer
(McMaster Marauders)

Like the McMaster women’s team, the Marauders men’s team had a chance with a win against the Rams to host a home playoff game. With a win against the Rams, they would clinch top spot in the OUA Central division. They were coming off a 2-2 draw with the Rams on Thursday, where the Rams came back from two goals down to snatch a point with a 90th-minute goal from Zakaria Abdi capping it off. 

On Sunday, the Rams continued their offensive momentum at Ron Joyce Stadium as Abdi finished off a pass from teammate Abdallah El-Chanti to put the visitors up 1-0 in the 17th minute. Both sides traded chances before the Marauders found an equalizer as fifth-year veteran Antonio Sereno scored from inside the box in the 32nd minute. 

However, that lead would be short-lived as the Rams answered right back as El-Chanti finished off a cross with a header past Marauders goalkeeper Tristan Joyce. McMaster and the Rams continued to go back and forth. The Rams extended their lead in the 66th minute as Abdi scored his seventh goal of the season off a rebound in close. 

McMaster pressed the Rams for the rest of the match, whipping in balls from both sides. However, they were dealt with by the Rams defenders and goalie Praveen Ahilan. McMaster came close a couple of times but ultimately could not find the goals to bring them back even. 

The Rams finish atop the division with 25 points with the win while the Marauders finish second with 20 points. Both teams will still have a chance to capture the OUA Championships and a spot at nationals when the OUA playoffs kick off next week. 

Cover Photo: McMaster Marauders

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