Hamilton, ON- With the OUA regular season entering the final stretch of games, the McMaster Marauders women’s soccer team faced a crucial home against the York Lions.
They were facing a Lions squad third in the OUA West division. Meanwhile, the Marauders were chasing a playoff berth.
The Marauders found the quick start they needed as they went on the attack early.
Forward Joelle Chackal got the ball on the wing. Forward Madison Goertz initially planned to make a run into the middle but she saw the defence dropping. She noticed the goalie out of position and held her run back. She received the pass from Chackal and shot it past the keeper and into the net. Not even two minutes in, the Marauders were on top.
“Hearing that noise of the [ball hitting] the back of the net, amazing,” Goertz said. “My teammates running towards me, it was just amazing.”
It was Goertz’ first-career goal as a Marauder. The Saskatoon native spent the first four years of her university career at UNB. She now has a goal and an assist in six games this season.
After the Marauders took the lead, York responded with some chances of their own. The defence held up as goalkeeper Ali Mudie made some key saves.
However, the Lions got their equalizer early in the second half as Nia Flemming-Thompson broke through the defence for a run and slotted the ball past Mudie.
The two sides continued to exchange chances as McMaster’s defence held firm. In the 83rd minute, it appeared as if York had taken the lead when one of their players broke through and scored. However, the goal was called back for offside.
For the Marauders, their mentality was important in responding to York’s goal. “One mistake led to their goal and I felt like everyone came together and reset,” Goertz noted. “That was a moment. It was very crucial to stay in it and pick your teammates up.”
Defender Tiam Pourbakhtiari called the goal “a turning point for us to say ‘let’s go. Let’s work harder. Let’s continue to battle out the rest of the half’.”
The team answered York’s attacks with their own, keeping possession of the ball at times and creating chances. Goertz had another shot in the second half turned aside by goalkeeper Ava Jones.
Late in the game, the Lions increased the pressure by getting the ball into the box and creating some corner kicks. Pourbakhtiari and defender Sara Vogel blocked shots. Mudie made saves off the corners.
“I think we cleaned up nicely. We were first to every ball,” Pourbakhiari said. “We have a tendency to hold the ball and start to dribble and that’s when we recognize and adapt to that.”
By winning the ball back, the Marauders were able to find open lines to attack, according to her. The team was also able to build up from the midfield into their attack. “We know how to possess the ball. We know how to go forward with that,” she added.
The Marauders had some players pressuring the ball and other supporting them. “So if you’re not pressuring, you’re supporting in case you get beat,” Goertz said. She added the team will look to build up in the final third of the field.
As the game ended, the Marauders had secured a point. It’s their sixth game in a row picking up points (their last loss was to Guelph on Sept. 9) and it followed up a road victory against Brock the previous week.
The team has a positive team climate that’s built up since the start of the season, according to Pourbakhtiari. A climate of hard work and togetherness. It’s an environment passed onto future players and alumni. They brought their momentum from their win against Brock into their draw against York.
That positive environment – the support, the cheering from teammates – was on display after clean tackles, key plays against York. It was on display after Goertz’s goal.
“We’re all rushing to find her and cheer her on because together that was a goal that – even though Maddi put it in the back of the net – we did it together and that’s something that we want to continue to celebrate those successes,” Pourbakhtiari said.
The Marauders will look to celebrate more moments of success. They are currently seventh in the OUA West. The team in the sixth spot? The Laurier Golden Hawks, who are one point ahead of them in the standings for that final playoff spot. After two road games against Algoma this week, the Marauders host the Golden Hawks in the regular season finale in what could be a significant game with playoff implications.
The team has already faced their share of quality opponents – and fared well. They’ve picked up points against the top five teams in the division. They drew with OUA finalist and division leaders Western in the season opener on the road. They defeated second-place Guelph at home.
“It’s kind of setting the tone for the rest of the season knowing like ‘Ok. We have to continue to work hard,” Pourbakhtiari said of facing Western and Guelph. “We have to continue to work through because every point counts, every win counts, every tie counts, every loss even counts. I think we definitely did a really good job continuing the momentum for those first four games.”
Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics