Previewing the AUS Women’s Soccer Championship

HALIFAX, NS – The AUS Women’s Soccer Championships kick off today with five teams battling for one ticket to nationals. The Cape Breton Capers will be hosting the U SPORTS National Tournament from Nov. 18-21 so they have already booked theirs but should the Capers win the AUS title, the finalists will advance as the other AUS representative.

#4 StFX (7-4-1) vs #5 Mount Allison (5-5-2)

Photo credit Bryan Kenendy
(Bryan Kennedy)

The first AUS quarter-final match of the day sees the #4 StFX X-Women take on the #5 Mount Allison Mounties. The X-Women are the last not Cape Breton team to win the AUS women’s soccer crown having claimed the banner in 2016. The Mounties on the other hand are making their first playoff appearance since 2013. The two teams met once this season, late in the year with StFX winning big, 4-1.

StFX came into the season as one of the favourites to win it all but four losses during a five-game stretch in the middle of the season dropped them in the standings. They got back on track though closing the season out on a 3-1-1 run. First team All-Star Amanda Smith led the X-Women in goals during the season with six and will be looked upon to help get the team back to the championship game. 

Second-year goalkeeper Christina Gentile will most likely get the start for StFX after putting up a 6-3-1 regular season record and a 0.84 goals against average.

StFX only gave up 11 goals on the year and should be able to keep the Mounties offence at bay. Mount Allison has the lowest scoring offence among playoff teams with 15 goals and will most likely need to break through a strong X-Women backline more than once in order to advance to the semis.

The Mounties season was a little odd as the team got off to a slow start but strung together five straight wins before cooling off before the season concluded. The team went 0-2-1 in their last three games and were outscored 7-2 in the process.

Mount Allison should be given credit though as the team was ranked 9th out of 10 in the preseason coaches poll. The Mounties are the underdogs but an upset is not out of the cards if they can settle down and pull out a strong road victory if you want to call it that. The team is 4-1-1 away from their home field this season but the lack of playoff experience on the team may get to them during what is expected to be a chilling afternoon in Cape Breton. 

The game kicks off at 11:30 ADT with the winner facing Memorial on Friday afternoon.

#3 Acadia (7-3-2) vs #6 Dalhousie (4-3-5)

(Acadia Athletics)

The second quarterfinal game of the day will see the #3 Acadia Axewomen battle the #6 Dalhousie Tigers. Acadia has been itching at the chance to get back to nationals after a disappointing 4th place finish in 2019. Anytime you make it to nationals it’s an amazing achievement but a loss via penalty kicks in the bronze medal game is not the way you want to go out.

The Axewomen have been quite good historically and haven’t finished outside the top four in the league since 2012. They concluded the 2021 season with a strong 7-3-2 record but two losses in their final three games will give Dalhousie a little more hope heading into their quarter-final match-up. Acadia will look to rely on their offensive depth as they had 10 different goal scorers this season with second-team All-Star Grace Longley and Rosie Nichols leading the way with three apiece. 

First-year goalkeeper Milena Ramirez has been up to the challenge in her rookie year with a 6-3-2 record and 5 clean sheets.  The rookie put up a 0.73 goals-against average and with the help of All-Star defenders Lauren Jodrey and Mya Harnish, Ramirez and company shouldn’t have too much trouble against a struggling Dalhousie squad. 

Dalhousie was expected to be amongst the league’s best come the end of the season but the Tigers crawled to the finish line this season going 0-3-4 to close the season only scoring two goals during that span. 

If it wasn’t for goalkeeper Annie Gravely who put up a league-leading seven clean sheets the Tigers would be nowhere near the playoffs. Gravely started all 12 games for Dalhousie and only allowed seven goals, three of which came in the second last game of the season in a 3-1 loss versus StFX.

Riley Donovan led the Tigers offensively with eight goals, good for second in the league. That being said, those eight goals came during a three-game stretch during the first half of the campaign.

Dalhousie is 0-2-4 on the road this year and is the coldest team coming into the playoffs. Having not won a game in over a month the Tigers will need some big things to happen in order to topple a very deep Acadia team.

If the Tigers keep the game even until late they might be able to grind out an extra time or penalty kick victory. If Acadia gets on the board early it will probably be enough to take whatever little wind there is out of Dalhousie’s sails.

The game kicks off at 4:30 ADT with the winner facing Cape Breton on Friday evening.

Prediction: Acadia 2 – 0 Dalhousie

#1 Memorial (10-2-0)  – BYE to SF

(Memorial Sea-Hawks)

Memorial turned a lot of heads this season with an impressive 10 win season after just barely making the playoffs the previous two years. With the first overall seed, the Sea-Hawks will get a bye to the semi-finals on Friday where they will play the winner of StFX and Mount Allison. 

Striker Holly O’Neill led the league in goals with 12 and was awarded AUS MVP. Memorial also features All-Stars Claire Langille, Briana Pender, Lauren Taylor and Sydney Walsh. Walsh went 8-2-0 in starts allowing only six goals, tied for the fewest in the league.

Head Coach Mike Power was also awarded Coach of the Year honours for the second time in his career (2016). Power led the team to seven straight victories to close out the season with his team-leading the AUS in goals scored (29). 

This Memorial team features seven players in their fourth year of eligibility or higher. The team is in a win-now mode and will look to take advantage of this experienced group of players looking to put a stamp on their athletic careers.

The team is a combined 3-0 against Mount Allison and StFX outscoring them 6-1. Regardless of who they play come Friday, the opposing team will need to play their game of the season.

#2 Cape Breton (8-0-4)  BYE to SF

Capers remain in 1st place in AUS women’s soccer with win
(Cape Breton Capers)

Cape Breton also has a bye to the semi-finals and will need to win their next two games in order to capture their fourth straight AUS title. The Capers have dominated women’s soccer over the last 17 seasons and this year is no exception. With 11 titles in that span, the Cape Breton has pressure to perform year after year but it seems like the team is never phased. 

They were the only undefeated team in the league this year with 8 victories and 4 draws. Two of those draws came in their last three games, both against Dalhousie, a team that they might have to face should the Tigers upset Acadia in the quarter-finals.

Haley Kardas, Fatou Ndiaye and striker Alliyah Rowe were first-team All-Stars while Madison Lavers was a second-team All-Star. 

Kardas started all 12 games allowing only six goals for a 0.53 goals-against average, both first in the conference. The team had seven shutouts on the season but Kardas was only credited with five because the other two were combined shutouts by both her and backup first-year keeper Kelsie Neville.

Rowe led the league in assists (6) and was second in the league in points (11). She had seven points in her final five games and has been one of the most consistent players in the league all year long. Rowe is very dangerous with the ball and can generate chances from almost anywhere on the field. Watch for her to make a difference this postseason. 

The Capers tied Acadia in their first meeting of the season before defeating them 2-1 on October 17th. As mentioned earlier Cape Breton tied both meetings against Dalhousie earlier this year.

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