Monday, 17 October 2011

College Women: St. Lawrence Vikings 3, Centennial Colts 0

Some days, the weather is agreeable, others not so much. Sunday's final regular season games for the St. Lawrence Vikings featured a strange mix of the two. The temperature was mid-20s Celcius, but the winds were cold and astoundingly strong blowing from west to east across the field.

The Vikings took to the field in their traditional white tops, black shorts, and black socks, while the Centennial Colts wore an all-black kit with white highlights. The Colts had the initial kick-off playing from north to south in front of only a handful of fans braving the strong winds.

Despite Centennial having the kickoff, the Vikings pressured them and forced a chance within the first thirty seconds of the game. Moments later, as the play went up the field the other way, Centennial's left midfielder appeared to twist her ankle and went down, requiring the training staff to assist her. This taxed Centennial early, as their bench was unusually short, with only 3 players. The Vikings were able to take advantage of Centennial being a player short as striker Megan Hutcheson forced a defensive error to pick up a ball deep in Centennial's end and forced a good save out of the Colts' goalkeeper.

A minute later, the Vikings gained possession of the ball at the midfield and their other striker (#22) put a ball out to the left wing. Left midfielder Erica Routhier ran onto the ball, cut back inside to beat the centre defender and fired the ball inside the near post to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead in the 4th minute of play.

The Vikings did not let up on the pressure as Hutcheson chipped the goalkeeper in the 8th minute, but put the ball just over the bar. The ball movement and off-the-ball movement by the Vikings players was far better than the last game that I'd attended as theywere dominating possession and keeping the ball out of their final third. Centennial, on the other hand, were having trouble gaining possession, and when they had possession, seemed to have little creativity with the ball. In fact, Centennial only had two solid chances in the first half, and both came about due to goalkeeper error. The first play was a poor challenge for the ball and as it got cleared, a Colts player took a long shot in that was well handled by the Vikings goalkeeper Jessica Dodge. She then immediately threw the ball out, but right up the middle of the field and right to a Colts player. That player took a shot which was easily stopped, but Dodge took no time to set herself and punted the ball up the side of the field and directly out for a Centennial throw.

Just before halftime, Vikings' striker Hutcheson leapt on a poorly placed pass deep in Centennial's end and beat her defender. The Colts goalkeeper challenged well, but Hutcheson was able to put the ball just past her and it rolled into the goal to give St. Lawrence a 2-0 lead in the 44th minute, one they held into half-time.

The second half began with Centennial controlling the play well and creating a number of chances by keeping the ball on the ground and using their speed to beat the Vikings defenders to the corners. For most of the second half, the traffic was unidirectional as the Vikings had trouble getting into the Colts' final third. Most of the attacking play for the Colts went through their striker, #15. She had just enough speed to match the Vikings' fastest defender, but had an excellent touch to go with it. She had three excellent chances inside the first 20 minutes of the half, but Dodge was up to all three, smothering the first with a collapsing dive to the near post, challenging the second and getting a foot on it, and making herself big to force the shot wide on the third.

The Vikings only had two real chances in the entire half as they sat back and tried to absorb the pressure. Their first came in the 55th minute with a free kick from 25 yards out near the center of the goal. Kingston native midfielder Mallory McQueen took the free kick and put it just wide of the undefended left post. The Vikings made their other chance count in the 74th minute. They had a throw-in deep in their own end which was taken long to Hutcheson. She turned and beat her defender and put a hard through ball along the ground to Jocelyn Sutton. The Colts' goalkeeper came out and challenged her, but Sutton touched the ball past her and into the net to make it 3-0.

The win was huge for the Viking women, giving them a final record of 2-4-1 on the season, a big improvement over their 0-7-1 record last season. They still have a mathematical shot at getting into the playoffs, but the two teams challenging them each have a pair of games in hand, and any points claimed in either game will officially eliminate the Vikings.

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