AUS Championships Day 1: What we learned from the AUS soccer quarterfinals

CAPE BRETON, NS – The AUS soccer championships kicked off today with four quarterfinals—two in the women’s competition and two in the men’s.

The day had a bit of everything. Some games were more one-sided than not, while others were dead-even. One even gave us the extra-time treatment. At the end of the day though, four teams were sent home and four more will be tomorrow. It’s a short, short playoffs, like many AUS competitions, but that only raises the stakes and makes every play that much more important.

We’ve learned a few things today about each team that took the field on day one at CBU, the host pitch of each competition’s championship. Plus, we’ll get an idea of what today’s winners need to do in order to book their ticket to Sunday’s finals against more rested teams in tomorrow’s semifinals. 

X-Women a legitimate championship threat

(Kendra Vigneau/StFX Athletics)

Yes, they may have been late running up the score on the Mount Allison Mounties, but StFX played as perfect of a quarterfinal game as they possibly could.

Backed by a hat trick from Amanda Smith, one of their most important players and the anchor of StFX’s top-tier offence, the X-Women were too much for a Mounties team enjoying the tail end of their Cinderella playoff season. StFX smothered Mount A keeper Sophie Austin with 15 shots, compared to a single Mounties shot on the X-Women’s Christina Gentile. StFX spent almost all game in the offensive end, while Mount A never even attempted a corner kick all match.

It was important for StFX to finish the season strong. After losing four of five games midseason, they turned the table by winning three of its final five. Those wins included dominant efforts against playoff squads Dal and Mount A. As these were in their final two games of the season, it’s seemed to restore their confidence.

Now, the X-Women draw one of their midseason demons in the semifinals, first-place Memorial. They couldn’t beat the Sea-Hawks in a 2-0 loss but otherwise played well by outshooting them 12-5. If StFX can keep their offence going by solving Sydney Walsh in net on Friday, semifinal number one will be a can’t-miss battle for a potential berth in the U SPORTS championships.

Yellow cards sink Panthers, SMU advances

(SMU Sports Information)

An untimely UPEI foul minutes before SMU’s first goal ended up being the difference in the game and each team’s seasons.

Kasper Lasia’s card in the 34th minute put the Panthers down a player before James Spence opened the scoring for SMU in the 36th. UPEI was carded twice more in the second half in what became a chippy game coming into the game’s end. 

It was all SMU in the first half, culminating in Spence’s goal. Out-attempting UPEI 9-0 in the first 45 minutes put the Panthers under a ton of pressure early and often, eventually leading to four first-half fouls for them. They managed to keep it close for most of the game against a SMU team they’ve already seen twice this season. Even after drawing a late-game yellow of their own, the SMU attack was enough to drain UPEI of chances and time on Thursday afternoon. 

Another team the Huskies saw twice this year was StFX, their opponent in tomorrow afternoon’s semis. The teams split those meetings. While the rubber match will decide who makes the final and the U SPORTS championships in Ottawa, SMU will need the same level of ball possession and attack they had today to keep it off the feet of some dangerous X-Men athletes.

Boudreau comes through big time for victorious Axewomen

(Acadia Athletics/CBU Athletics)

Jayden Boudreau had plenty of looks at some chances through the game’s first 105 minutes and, like the rest of the game’s players, had no luck converting on those chances.

In the 109th minute, she said enough was enough.

With a flying leap in the direction of teammate Grace Longley’s cross, Boudreau swung her head to the left of Dal’s Annabel Gravely in net. She almost got to the ball on the dive, but the ball was perfectly placed inside the post. After over 100 minutes of scoreless action, that was all Acadia needed to seal the victory and semifinal berth. 

The teams played their signature defence-first style all match, coming up with just nine combined shots on goal after the first 90 minutes. While the keepers made important stops, it was the fullbacks on each side keeping play away from the penalty box.

The fun has just started for the Axewomen. They’ll have to recover from the extended game in less than 24 hours as they face the rested host CBU on Friday afternoon. The Capers won the season series with a win and a draw and will bring more scoring punch than what the Axewomen faced against Dal. If Acadia can focus on keeping the ball clear and generate more shots in the semifinals, they are capable of giving CBU all they can handle in this rematch of the 2019 final.

Reds redemption

(James West/UNB Athletics)

A low point in UNB’s season was their road trip to St. John’s to play Memorial in September, one of three AUS squads to make the trip to Newfoundland this season. The Sea-Hawks used that home-field advantage to torch the Reds for five goals through two games. 

But none of that matters now. Because it’s the playoffs. 

The highlight of the game was, of course, Grant Takacs’s goal with 20 minutes to play. Taking a cross from Mathew Quigley after a failed UNB corner, Takacs volleyed the ball perfectly over the right shoulder of MUN keeper Dylan Crichton. It’s the goal of the tournament so far, in my opinion.

But let’s not forget that defence. Although Emmanuel Dolo and Co. kept pressure around the Reds’ 18-yard box most of the game, the Sea-Hawks had nothing to create from it. Matt Boem, Joe Hamilton and Simon Basillion at fullback were crucial to keeping MUN to the outside, with just three shots reaching Reds keeper Joshua Doupe.

Memorial’s steady offence is the perfect test for UNB’s date with CBU tomorrow night, the league’s number one offence. UNB’s seen them—and beat them—already this season, but this time the Capers have home-pitch advantage. The defence is in for another busy day with a handful of Kairo Coore and AUS MVP Charlie Waters. If they can keep them off the scoresheet tomorrow as they did with Dolo and Jacob Grant tonight, UNB will be every bit as capable of reaching Sunday’s final.

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