QUÉBEC CITY, QC- Calm, relaxed and well-planned. There’s a cool confidence that the Montreal Carabins carry themselves with when they play at the U SPORTS Women’s Soccer Championships.
As dreary rain pelted the already slick turf at TELUS-UL Stadium, the Carabins calmly played Rondo, 5v2, and other casual skill games smiles gleaming off their faces. Meanwhile, the Calgary Dinos, the Canada West bronze medalists, were serious and all prepped for the blue and black challenge that awaited them.
The Carabins went on to defeat the Dinos 1-0, booking their spot in the national semifinals and sending the Dinos to the consolation bracket.
From the off, the Carabins were confident. Caressing the ball through the midfield, playing with expression and forcing the Dinos to defend early in the match. Then, as a high press forced a turnover, Maxyme Nobert jumped on a loose ball and sent a piercing pass to Megan Sauvé, who swiftly finished the shot.
A 1-0 lead, the winning goal, in just the third minute.
The Carabins, as cool as the blue on their kits, never looked back from the start of the match, continuing to play their rugged yet swift style throughout the game.
Calgary began to find a little bit of possession in the 23rd minute, getting their first shot on goal through a long-distance attempt from Maddy Murray that Montreal goalkeeper Catherine Langelier easily handled.
That chance, however, was the only real one for Calgary through the first 45 minutes, as the first half ended with Carabins domination in possession, albeit not on the scoresheet. While there were moments of positive play for Calgary, a final pass was always a few feet too heavy or placed just in the path of a Montreal defender — none of which looked likely to end in a Dinos goal.
The second half, however, saw some more positives from the Dinos, as Jayda Berg and Rachel Barlow began dropping back a little deeper, helping build the attack before exposing the few pockets of space left by Montreal.
Yet, despite the improved play, the Carabins continued to push, leaving Caley Leask to make several game-saving stops through 1-on-1 situations, keeping her side in the match. She made six saves through the 90 minutes.
Leask finished the match with six saves.
“She was great and made some big saves when we needed to; we’d like to get one for her so we can go to extra time for the job she’s done, but it’s the reality of being a goalkeeper, you can make all the saves in the world but if your team doesn’t score it doesn’t matter,” said co-head coach Diogo Raposo to 49 Sports. “She’s player of the game in a loss, and that’s not a great feeling, but she’d rather have the win than the player of the game.”
With Calgary pressing high in the late stages of the match, the Carabins were able to find some more attacking spaces of their own, forcing saves out of Leask and tackles throughout the Calgary lineup. The high press also worked for Calgary, though Berg, Erica Mysko, and Sophia Digiacomo all fired shots that missed the target.
Yet, as the match official delayed the final whistle, and Calgary worked the ball out of Montreal’s defensive shutdown tactics, the Dinos could not find another shot on goal in stoppage time, as the early goal eventually proved costly to the U SPORTS Championship hopes.
“You need a bit of luck, but that’s football”– Calgary co-head coach Diogo Raposo
“Poor starts have been our Achilles’ heel at times this year, but I thought our response was great,” Raposo said. “I don’t think we’ve been in a game this year where we didn’t think we were good enough, we have that belief, and it’s just a matter of getting the right balances and a bit of luck, but that’s football.”
With the win in the rearview, the Carabins look towards a semifinal against either the OUA Champion uOttawa Gee-Gees or Canada West runner-ups, the TWU Spartans, as they continue their search for a spot in the U SPORTS gold medal match.
Meanwhile, the championship dreams ended for the Calgary Dinos, who move to the consolation semifinals to face the loser of the uOttawa vs TWU match, looking toward rebounding towards a 5th-place finish.