Friday, 16 September 2011

University Women: Queen's Gaels 3, RMC Paladins 1

On a nice Friday afternoon, Queen's University hosted the other local university, RMC, out at Richardson Stadium this afternoon. Due to work obligations, I was unable to get to the game in time for its kickoff at 3:30pm, and got there in the 22nd minute of play.

To put today's game into perspective, it is best to know that over the past few years, the Queen's women's team has done very well, winning the CIS championship last fall, while RMC's team has not done quite so well. Despite this, each time Queen's and RMC play each other, the games are very tight and very even with RMC's fitness matching well against the skill of the Queen's players.

This afternoon's game was no different. Upon my arrival, I did my typical check of the scoreboard and noticed that RMC had taken a 1-0 lead. I ran into Richard Grazette, the coach of the St. Lawrence College women's team, and he informed me that Lisa Udegbunam had scored for RMC about two minutes before I'd gotten to the field on a very nice play.

During the remainder of the first half, Richard and I talked about the strike that is currently affecting most (if not all) of the colleges in Ontario and how it has led to the college season's start being heavily delayed. He told me that there are three exhibition games organized for the St. Lawrence teams over the next week and that the season is expected to start on September 30th.

But anyway, back to the game at hand. The rest of the first half was very even between the two teams as RMC's fitness allowed them to pressure Queen's and not allow them any time on the ball, which meant that neither team really had too many opportunities to score, leaving the score at 1-0 for RMC at halftime. RMC was playing with a flat back four and a defensive midfielder just in front of them. There was a gap to the next three midfielders, and the two strikers for a 4-1-3-1-1 formation. Queen's had countered with a more standard 4-4-2 with the outside midfielders pushing up into the forward line on the attack to be more of a 4-2-4 formation.

Queen's came out much stronger in the second half, pressuring RMC constantly by moving the ball around well and using their speed up the wings. 11 minutes into the half, striker Breanna Burton got a through ball down the left wing and was able to get past the defender near the top of the penalty area. Olivia Clarke, the RMC goalkeeper, had come out to challenge the play, but was caught out of position with the move, and the Queen's striker was able to put the ball past her for her second goal of the season.

Clarke had seemed a bit shaky in the first half, but settled well in the second half, although she had a tendency to parry many of the long shots to the ground before making the catch. Her calmness seemed to settle her backline. After Queen's tied up the game, RMC changed their formation slightly, flattening the two strikers, and pushing an extra midfielder forward when they were on the attack for a 4-1-3-2 formation that changed to a 4-1-2-3 formation. This allowed Queen's time on the ball in the midfield where they showed some good imagination in their ball movement, but unfortunately they tended to take a lot of long shots rather than trying to break through the backline.

In the 39th minute of the second half, Queen's striker Kelli Chamberlain broke down the wing and, as she passed the defender, seemed to clip the heels of the defender with her. Whatever actually happened, the defender went down about 25 yards from the goal line and no call was made by the referee or his assistant. This allowed Chamberlain to put the ball across to midfielder Alexis McKinty. McKinty touched the ball past Clarke and Clarke pulled her down. The referee blew his whistle and pointed at the penalty spot. The red card was shown to RMC's goalkeeper for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. One of the strikers,Michelle Hamilton, took the gloves and stepped into the goal to face the penalty. I found out after the game that Hamilton is RMC's 3rd string goalkeeper but regularly plays as a field player.

Before this could happen, RMC's coaching staff was visibly upset and yelling at the referees. The referee came over and dismissed one of the assistants. Finally, almost 5 minutes after the initial incident, the penalty was able to be taken. Kelli Chamberlain stepped up to take the penalty and put it past the new goalkeeper's outstretched hands.

Shortly after the kickoff RMC substituted off one of their midfield players and brought in their backup goalkeeper, Kelly Milliken to finish out the game. Unfortunately the first shot she faced came from Queen's left midfielder Riley Filion, as she fired a ball from the edge of the penalty area to the far post to make the score 3-1. Milliken settled and made a few good stops after that, but the damage was done, and the game was called soon after.

The crowd was not nearly as large as the past weekend's games, but it was still sizeable, and many of them were very vocal both cheering the game and disparaging several of the calls being made. Overall, it was an excellent game, somewhat marred by the controversy of the incident that led to the penalty kick goal.

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