Hamilton, ON- The McMaster Marauders women’s rugby has a word of the week. Entering their regular season finale and senior’s night game against the Brock Badgers, the word was execution.
That execution was crucial as the Badgers took the lead numerous times in a game with playoff seeding on the line. Brock scored a penalty and a try to go up eight points. Taylor Wood responded with a try.
Both sides fought hard as the play moved up and down the field. The Badgers took the lead again and held a 20-19 edge as time ticked away. McMaster fought back once again.
“We never gave up. We kept moving forward. We stuck together, which is everything we were working on,” Marauders player Osa Olaye said. “I feel like we executed perfectly.”
Olaye played a key role in the comeback. She scored two tries earlier in the game. Her team had missed a penalty kick that just sailed under the goalpost.
McMaster head coach Chris Jones thought they had missed their chance to win with the missed penalty just minutes earlier. The clock ticked into extra time as the Marauders prepared for one final push.
“We’re like ‘hey guys, we have one more try in us. We’re going to make this happen’,” Vanessa Webb recalled. “That mentality fully carried us into that try.”
The Marauders pushed the ball up the field deep into Brock territory, keeping possession before Olaye scored. Ecstasy ensued as the Marauders players, coaches and fans celebrated. Moments later, they celebrated the 24-20 triumph.
“It’s a sigh of relief for all our hard work as a team paying off together,” Olaye noted. She scored three tries while captain Katie McLeod added two converts.
Throughout the week leading up to the game, the Marauders focused on executing. They focused on executing despite what the score was. They carried that mentality into the game as they responded to Brock’s tries.
“We were able to not let that moment get us down, get us out of our system…refocus us and get in and execute our game plan,” Jones said.
After many of their previous games ended in large margins of victory, the Marauders faced a close game. Jones said there’s work to be done with decision making with the ball but he said the team did well executing their system.
The final whistle blew and family and friends celebrated with them on the field. It marked the last game for seniors such as McLeod, Webb, Vanessa Vogel, Ila Bett and others.
“They’re special people,” Olaye said. “None of us as people or as players would be where we are without them and each of them are integral to the team and we’re so lucky to have them.”
Jones talked about the trust they had in him coming in as a first-year coach. “The fact that they trusted me spoke volumes,” he added.
He remembers meeting McLeod in the spring and talked about Jones’ values and his vision for the team. McLeod decided to return for one more year while the seniors and the rest of the team also bought in.
“That’s a hard thing to do. In your last year as a player, to have a new coach come in and be like ‘hey, I do things differently’ and for them to be like ‘no, I’m with you’, that’s humbling,” Jones said.
On the field at Ron Joyce Stadium after the game, Webb said she’s trying not to let the feeling of seniors night sink in just yet.
“Especially after this kind of game, it’s going to be really hard to walk away from,” she said. “I’m going to wait until the very last game for it to sink in because I can’t let that mentality stop me right now.”
With the victory, the Marauders will host a home playoff game on Oct. 15. Jones said they’ll need to show something different for playoffs while also staying consistent in their process.
After losing to Guelph and Queen’s earlier in the season, the Marauders have won two games in a row to finish the season with a 4-2 record. They are ranked in U SPORTS Top 10. Webb said they plan to carry that momentum into the playoffs.
“We’re going to keep the intensity up, keep the aggression, set our sights on that playoff game next week and we’ll see how it goes from there,” she said.
Featured Image: McMaster Athletics