After going 2-6-4 in the regular season, finishing in second last, the underdog Western Mustangs field hockey team finished on the podium with a bronze medal.
The Mustangs upset the third-ranked York Lions 1-0 in the quarterfinals on Friday in the shoot out, with two penalty goals from exchange student Tamara Evans. They fell to the Guelph Gryphons 1-0 in the semifinals on Saturday, after a late second half goal from Guelph’s Olivia Lane, the MVP of the league.
On day three of the tournament, the Mustangs claimed bronze over the Waterloo Warriors, with Evans hammering it home past the goalie of the year in the 58th minute.
“It feels extra special knowing the path that we took to get to that bronze medal,” said Mustangs head coach Jeff Pacheco. “The girls have put in a lot of effort over not just this year, but the past few years as well.”
After a mediocre regular season, the Mustangs were determined to play their best on their home turf, as Western hosted the OUA championship at TD stadium.
“Having a lot of pride as an athlete and wearing the mustang colours, we knew that we had to represent really well at home,” said Pacheco. “It wasn't necessarily about how we started the season, it was more about how we finished.”
Being the underdogs may have given the Mustangs a slight advantage over their competition, who may have taken the Mustangs for an easy win. The Mustangs, on the other hand, prepared for every team to be a worthy opponent and played with passion.
“There was just so much passion and emotion from all of the girls, this is something that nobody really ever thought would happen,” said team captain Emily Cozens. “We came in fully prepared, we did lots of video on our opponents, we knew what their tactics were, and we stuck to our game plan.”
For Cozens, the bronze medal win means she has come full circle during her time with the team. Cozens first year with the team was the last time the team competed in a medal game, failing to win the bronze. This game was a shot at redemption, and the team managed to capture the bronze this time.
“It's kind of interesting to see how things have turned around here in my fourth year,” said Cozens. “Playing my final game in the same situation that I was in in first year, but it feels just a little bit different this time.
They may not be going to the U Sport championship, but the bronze medal is the first sign of success that is to come. In recent memory, the field hockey team has not had the kind of success that they were used to in the past, but this is a sign of the upwards slope that the team is on.
“If we can carry that passion that we played with this weekend into regular season games, if we can learn to harness that emotion,” Pacheco said. “There should be more good things to come for this program.”