Maya Venkataraman and Rachelle Lalande are leading the Tigers from midfield.
Both players are tied with strikers Sofia Nicolls and Jensen Hudder for the women’s soccer team’s lead in points with four.
“Both of them have great work ethic,” says Cindy Tye, the team’s head coach. “Maya is a catalyst for attack while Rachelle is more of a steady stay at home player.”
Venkataraman is an offensive midfielder. It’s her job to start the attack and pass the ball to an open striker. When there is a shortage of strikers on the field she will act as one and score goals. Her four goals are tied with Hudder for seventh in the league. Over her three seasons as a Tiger, she’ consistently been one of the top scorers on the team.
An example of her offensive talent was on display with her goal against the University of New Brunswick in mid-September: Venkataraman found open space and received the ball in the attacking zone. She ran through the middle of two defenders and shot the ball into the back of the net.
Lalande is a defensive midfielder. Her role is to stop opposing attacking players before they reach deep into the Tigers’ third of the field. Because she has a defensive role, she was surprised to find out she’s tied for the team lead in points.
According to Tye, Lalande has a great shot, and can fire from both feet; she’s used often in free kick situations.
In that same game, Venkataraman scored the goal described above. Lalande fired a corner kick from the left corner, the ball sailed through the air, over the keeper and landed in the net.
Both players were recognized by the AUS last year and were both named second-team all-stars.
Neither Lalande nor Venkataraman personally take credit for their success. They give the credit to their teammates and coaches.
“I honestly would have to give a large portion to the team because without the team you’re just an individual player and that’s not going to get you places,” says Venkataraman
Dalhousie has five coaches that help out their players. Along with Tye, they have two assistants, a goaltender coach and a video analysis coach. Lalande credits them along with Tye for their success.
“I think she [Tye] really gets to know us each as an individual and figures out our strengths and weaknesses and really knows where to put them.”
With the season nearing an end, both players will be important if the Tigers are to have playoff success. Venkataraman will need to start the offence, break through defensive lines and create scoring chances. Lalande will need to help shut down the midfield. As older players, they will be looked on for experience.
“What definitely got us here is a full team effort, that is no question,” says Tye. “We’re going to look for older players to step up and they are going to be a great engine for us.”