After a difficult start to the weekend for the Western women’s soccer team, they finished their season with a heroic last-minute comeback to win OUA bronze against the Windsor Lancers. The effort was lead by fourth-year striker, Amanda Boyle, who scored the tying goal and first-year goaltender Megan Girardi, who sealed the results with a fantastic penalty shot performance.
The Mustangs started off the weekend with a disappointing 2-0 loss to Queen's University in the semifinal on Friday night. After a strong regular season that saw the team go 9-1-6, the team had hoped to compete for gold and to potentially play in nationals. The team fought until the last minute in a game that saw Queen’s score two late second half goals. The team had to quickly turn around and rally for Sunday’s bronze medal matchup against the Lancers.
“We wanted to focus on keeping the ball, which I think we did a good job of today,” said Mustangs head coach Martin Painter. “We focused on trying to generate more chances, trying to get some goals.”
Going into the game, the teams were fairly evenly matched. Both times these two teams played each other in the regular season resulted in a 0-0 tie. In their final matchup of the season, the Mustangs managed to come out on top and claim bronze, but the game could have gone either way.
“We always have good games when we play each other,” said Lancers head coach Steve Hart. “We’re very equal, it’s been basically three ties this season.”
The first half of the game was dominated by defensive play with both teams shutting down the other's offence, keeping scoring chances to a minimum. The Lancers got on the scoreboard first, scoring their only goal of the game midway through the first half off of a free kick by Giulia Barile.
The Mustangs stormed into the second half, dominating play. They shut the Lancers down offensively, as throughout the second half Windsor only managed to get two shots off.
This sudden injection of energy was led by veteran players and younger players coming into their own. Painter rallied his players by reminding them that this was the last game of the season and to leave it all out on the field. The team took this to heart and played an up-tempo half. They were absolutely relentless on offense and on defense, not giving the Lancers the chance to widen their lead.
“We just talked about bringing some extra emotion and to never give up,” said Painter. “It showed in our character while we fought for 45 minutes, and ended up with us deservedly tying it up.”
The Mustangs had possession for most of the second half. The team was generating chances from everywhere on the field, being awarded with 11 corner kicks in the second half alone. The Lancers played well defensively, blocking shots and clearing out rebounds, while Krystin Lawrence made save after save.
“We were struggling a little bit, I have to give credit to the Windsor goalie. She’s really good, comes off her line really aggressive, never gave up” said Boyle. “But after 17 corners you have to get one in; statistically speaking, the ball has to go in at some point.”
Their efforts finally paid off, as Boyle tied the game in the dying seconds of injury time. A header through heavy traffic in front of the Lancers goaltender was all it took to give the team the opportunity to win the game in penalty shots.
“It means the world to me, it’s been a great four years here at Western,” said Boyle. “It’s not first or second, but it’s the best we could do in these circumstances. It means the world to me, especially with these lovely ladies.”
The whole team rallied in support of Girardi during the penalty shots. The team won the penalty shots 4–2 with a game-defining save by Girardi to finish it off. Girardi showed amazing composure during the penalty kicks, only allowing two goals on four shots.
“It’s a lot of practice, you kind of have to keep your composure,” said Girardi post-game. ”I’m still freaking out inside, but I kind of go with it and go for the best."
This victory proves a high level of maturity for this young team, as they kept their composure without letting off the gas until the very end. For this team to make it to the OUA final four lays solid foundations for future seasons. Painter expressed his pride in the team after the game, and attributed the success of the season to a strong veteran leadership as well as many first-year players stepping up at the right time.
“I think with 14 first-year players, one of the most positive things for us this weekend was how some of the first-year players stepped up,” said Painter.
As the team comes away from the tournament with OUA Bronze, they show promise. With half the team being rookies this year, this bronze medal is a sign of good things to come.