Tuesday, 8 November 2011

CIS Women's Championship - preview

The 2011 edition of the CIS women's soccer championship begins this Thursday in Montreal, Quebec on the McGill University campus. All of the games will be played at the Percival Molson Stadium in a single-elimination tournament.

The 2011 edition features eight teams, one from the Atlantic conference, two from Quebec (including the host team), three from Ontario, and two from the Canada West conference. The teams are the Dalhousie Tigers (AUS champions), Montreal Carabins (RSEQ champions), Queen's Gaels (OUA champions), Trinity Western (CWUAA champions), Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (OUA finalists), Alberta Pandas (CWUAA finalists), Ottawa Gee-Gees (OUA bronze medalists), and the host team, the McGill Martlets.

Today we will briefly preview all eight teams involved and show the path that the OUA teams would need to traverse to reach the championship final to lift the Gladys Bean memorial trophy.

The Queen's Gaels are the defending CIS Champions and the current OUA Champions after their defeat of Laurier in the OUA final this past weekend. To get to the final they finished first in the OUA East, defeated the Carleton Ravens at home by a 3-0 score, defeated the McMaster Marauders in the OUA Final Four by a 3-0 score, and then defeated the Laurier Golden Hawks in penalties (5-3) in the final. A full preview of the Queen's Gaels was done for the Final Four, so that is the best place to start for them. Queen's has lifted the Gladys Bean trophy twice in their history, 2010 and 1988. This is the third trip to the championships in a row for Queen's and their ninth in the last twelve years.

The Laurier Golden Hawks faced the Queen's Gaels in last year's CIS final, losing 1-0 in extra time to a Riley Filion goal. They were the top team in the OUA West and defeated the York Lions 1-0 to host the 2011 OUA Final Four. At the Final Four, they defeated Ottawa by a 1-0 score in a tight defensive game before losing in the final to Queen's. Laurier is coming into these championships with revenge against Queen's in the back of their minds. A full preview of the Laurier Golden Hawks was done for the Final Four. Like Queen's, Laurier has won the Gladys Bean trophy twice, those coming in 1995 and 1992.

The third Ontario-based team is the Ottawa Gee-Gees, a team having just claimed their third OUA bronze medal in a row. The Gee-Gees claimed their only CIS Championship in 1996 and come in as one of the underdogs to this tournament. Finishing second in the OUA East, the Gee-Gees beat Toronto 2-1 before losing 1-0 to Laurier in the OUA semi-final. A comprehensive 4-0 defeat of McMaster gave them the bronze medal and a trip to Montreal. A full preview of the Ottawa Gee-Gees was done for the Final Four.

Starting out east, the Dalhousie Tigers finished third in the Atlantic conference with a 9-3-1 record, but won three games in three days, defeating sixth place UNB 2-0, second place Saint Mary's 3-2, and then first place UPEI 2-0. Their top scorer was midfielder Rieka Santilli with seven goals on the season. Santilli was the Tigers' only player to make the first All-Star team, but three of her teammates were on the second squad, midfielder Joanna Blodgett, defender Kristy MacGregor-Bales, and goalkeeper Taryn McKenna. The team posted eight clean sheets in the regular season and had nine goalscorers besides Santilli. The Tigers scored only 24 goals in the season, but only gave up 8, second best in the AUS. The Tigers enter the CIS Championships as the only unranked team.

On the other hand, the Montreal Carabins come to the CIS Championships as the top ranked team in the country and the only undefeated team. Their record of 12-0-2 easily gave them first place in the RSEQ and a 2-1 win over Laval and 3-1 over Sherbrooke gave them the RSEQ championship title. In addition to their top ranking, the Carabins boast the top goalscorer in the country and RSEQ MVP in Éva Thouvenot-Hébert with eighteen goals scored on the season. She was also credited with six assists. An astounding fifteen other players tallied for Montreal, none scoring more than six. Montreal dominated the All-Star selections with five players on the first team, Thouvenot-Hébert, Martine Julien, Valérie Labelle, Virginie Lévesque, and Véronique Maranda. Three more players were named to the second team, Claudiane Tremblay, Claire Robbins, and Catherine Delmas-Frenette. En route to their title, Montreal scored 52 goals, more than double the next best team in Quebec, and only surrendered 6, collecting nine clean sheets along the way. No team from Quebec has ever won the CIS Championships, but Montreal's strength gives them a good chance this year to change that in their fifth straight trip.

The McGill Martlets are easily the weakest team this year at the championships coming in ranked tenth in the country and finishing a distant third in the RSEQ with a 8-3-3 tallying 25 goals and giving up 10 along the way. Their eight clean sheets were second to Montreal's in Quebec. Alexandrea Morin-Boucher was the Martlet's top scorer with 9 goals and that garnered her first team All-Star status, while her teammate Alexandria Hoyte was named Rookie of the Year and a first team All-Star. Joining them on the first team was Julia Bahen, while goalkeeper Victoria Muccilli and Kelsey Wilson were named second team All-Stars.

The two teams from Canada West have both been to the Championships several times, and both have on the title three times with the Alberta Pandas hoisting the trophy in 1989, 1997, and 2001, and the Trinity Western Spartans winning in 2004, 2008, and 2009.

Trinity Western enters the CIS Championships ranked second in the country and holding a 12-1-1 record in the regular season. This gave them top ranking in the Canada West conference, just ahead of UBC. The Spartans scored 31 goals and surrendered 7 along the way, collecting seven clean sheets. Ten different players scored for Trinity Western, with their top scorers being Daniela Gerig and Melissa Mobilio with six and five goals respectively. With their dominant season coach Graham Roxburgh was named CW Coach of the Year. Trinity Western had five players named to the first All-Star team in goalkeeper Kristen Funk, defenders Jennifer Castillo and Colleen Webber, and midfielders Mobilio and Natalie Boyd. Two further players were named to the second team, defender Jilian Dietrich and striker Gerig. The Spartans defeated the Alberta Pandas in penalties (4-3) in the CW Final after being 1-1 at the end of play.

The final team involved in the 2011 CIS Championships is the Alberta Pandas. The Pandas finished third in Canada West with a 9-4-1 record and were ranked ninth in the country. They tallied 31 goals on the season, tied for the most with Trinity Western, but gave up 12 goals along the way. Impressively, they collected eight clean sheets along the way with Kelti Biggs starting all fourteen games for the team. Striker Heather Lund tallied 11 goals on the season and seven other players scored for the team, including Amanda Black with six and midfielder Elise Emmot with five. Three players were named to the first team with defender Shalla Kadima, midfielder Carleigh Miller, and Lund. Emmott was named as a second team All-Star.

The opening day's schedule begins at 10:30ET with Dalhousie facing off against Ottawa. At 13:30ET Queen's faces Alberta. The losers from those two games will meet on Friday at 16:30ET and the winners on Saturday at 13:30ET in the first semi-final.

The last two quarter-finals on Thursday kick off at 16:30ET between Montreal and Laurier and then the host team's matchup at 19:30ET between McGill and Trinity Western. The losers of those two games meet on Friday at 19:30ET and the winners on Saturday at 16:30ET in the second semi-final.

The fifth place game between the winners of the two Friday games kicks off at 19:30ET on Saturday, setting the stage for the Bronze medal game Sunday at 13:30ET and the Championship Final goes at 16:00ET.

For Queen's to get to the final, they will have to defeat Alberta and the winner of the Ottawa/Dalhousie game. Ottawa will have to defeat Dalhousie and the winner of the Alberta/Queen's game. Laurier will have to topple the nation's number one team Montreal before facing the winner of McGill and Trinity Western. They appear to have the toughest path, potentially facing two Montreal-based teams.

All of the games will be streamed live on SSNCanada.ca over the weekend.

Update: The official CIS/SIC preview is now online.

Update 2: Gordon Smith's preview for SSNCanada is also online now.

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