Hamilton, ON- The day after the McMaster Marauders women’s soccer team lost on the road 2-0 against the Guelph Gryphons on Sept. 9, head coach Miranda Wiley gave a speech.
“A really tough but needed speech about who we are as a team, who we want to be as players, where we want to go,” goalkeeper Alexandra Mudie said. “And I think that hit for all of us.”
The Marauders had started the season with a draw and loss against reigning OUA finalist Western Mustangs. Now they were facing a Guelph squad that finished atop the OUA West in the 2021 regular season. McMaster had narrowly missed out on the playoffs playing in the OUA Central back then.
Mudie noted how the team’s mindset wasn’t where it needed to be against Guelph. A sense of urgency came out of that meeting. “Urgency to win, urgency to prove ourselves against this team again,” she added.
In their rematch at Ron Joyce Stadium on Sept. 11, the Marauders came out with that urgency. They went on the front foot early in an even first half. McMaster had eight shots to Guelph’s 10 by halftime and while they were outshot in the second half, they still created chances.
Mudie had a solid performance, making saves while her teammates helped with defending. Bryanna Caldwell made a goal-line clearance. Then, with just under 10 minutes remaining, McMaster struck.
The home team earned a free kick near the baseline – almost a corner kick. Midfielder Emilie Calabrese swung the ball in. While it didn’t reach any of her teammates’ heads or feet, it did swish into the back of the net.
“Right before the kick, I guess there was nothing in my mind,” Calabrese recalled. “I tried to calm myself, put a good ball in and I guess the result was what it was so I’m happy with that.”
McMaster defended and keep a clean sheet for their first victory of the season. The players poured onto the field in celebration after the final whistle.
Calabrese said they played with more heart and intensity, especially defensively, than last game. She said they learned how to deal with adversity.
“It was a long time coming,” she noted. “We came today wanting that win and we were hungry for it and I think it feels amazing to finally get that payoff.”
The payoff came after numerous meetings so far this season, where Wiley and the team talked about the team they wanted to be. “We had a lot of free-flowing ideas but the main part was we want to be a competitor this season,” Mudie said. “We want to be a team that is known as a tough win…tough competition.”
Another thing they emphasized was being a team that played together, according to Calabrese. “Being a family as a team, on and off the field,” she added. “Very connected with everyone and I think we’re working towards that.”
Calebrese said the team already has a huge component of that connection already. It comes from spending a lot of time together. In the preseason, the team spent “almost every minute together” according to Calabrese, including team bonding outside the field.
“Especially with new freshmen coming in and stuff, you get to know them and [in] preseason, how they play, how they like the ball,” Mudie said. The team has six first-year players as well as UNB transfer Madison Goertz.
Calabrese pointed out how they make sure everyone on the team is close together as a group.
The roster is filled with players in their second and third years of eligibility, including Calabrese and Mudie. Twenty-two of them in total. “It’s been nice to come up together,” Calabrese noted. “It builds again that sense of family…the experience playing together last year, the year before that.”
Mudie remembers coming into the team last season and how it was hard to connect with everyone due to COVID restrictions. However, she noted how the team did a very good job making her feel comfortable.
Having more in-person interactions and team bonding experiences this season has helped. “I feel like everyone’s almost bonded more because we can be in person with one another,” Mudie noted.
“Zoom doesn’t do it justice,” Calabrese added.
Another thing Wiley has stressed is their approach to the games. The focus is on themselves rather than the opponents, on how they play and approach each game. The focus is also on the present, the game in front of them.
“It was a loss on the Friday,” Mudie said as an example. “Today’s a new day. Today’s a new game, today’s a new mindset. All of that is kind of behind you.”
In front of them, the Marauders still have games to come against York, Laurier, Windsor and others in the OUA West. “I hope that this game proves to other teams that we are tough competition,” Calabrese said.
Featured Image: McMaster Athletics