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Dal women’s soccer doesn’t meet the goal but sees hope for future seasons

Tigers see improvement after not matching preseason expectations

Despite going in with high hopes, the Dalhousie University women’s soccer team fell short of their expectations this season. The team finished fourth in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) division, losing to the Memorial University of Newfoundland in the AUS quarterfinals. 

“We know the league is always going to be competitive,” said Cindy Tye, the Tigers coach. “The expectation is to be a contender with the goal of winning the AUS championship. We fell short of the championship but always felt we were in the fight.” 

Dal was the fourth seed entering the playoffs while MUN was fifth, but the Seahawks prevailed in penalty kicks after ending the 90 minutes of play tied 1-1. 

“The season’s results weren’t necessarily what we were expecting but every year is a growth year and the team always learns something new,” said Morgan Leon, a Tigers midfielder and one of three team captains. “I would say by the end of the year, we were more cohesive and played faster as a team.”

In the 2022 season, the Tigers made it to the AUS finals and competed against Cape Breton University, losing the close game 1-0. 

Balancing Defence

While the Tigers remained a good defensive team in the 2023 season, they didn’t match their 0.25 goals against average from the 2022 season, which played a key role in the team’s prior success. 

“I think as a whole team we weren’t as tight of a group as we would have liked to be,” said Leon about the defensive unit. “We were a little more fluid working together last year than this year and looking back on it, not every year is going to be the same and that is okay.”

On the positive side, the Tigers were a more offensive team this season, scoring more goals overall and having a better successful shot percentage.  

“We were more attacking-focused this year which is great, the next thing would be learning to be attacking-focused without compromising our defence,” said Leon.

Both Tye and Leon noted the progress that took place over the season in regards to defence, saying the defence got better as the players got more comfortable in their positions. 

Leon’s Tigers Farewell

Leon played her final game as a Tiger in the quarterfinal game against MUN after five years at Dalhousie and four years of play in the AUS, due to missing a season because of the pandemic. 

The midfielder’s final season was not without its hardships as Leon battled to come back from an injury that kept her from playing in eight out of 12 regular season games last year. 

“I was a little nervous coming in this year from being injured almost all of last year,” said Leon. “I think people underestimate the mental side of the game and that was a big thing for me this year. I’m proud that I pushed through it and worked hard for my team.”

Despite having some ups and downs throughout the five years she was on the team, Leon did not go unrecognized for her hard work. 

“Our captains, Megan, Morgan [and] Hannah all play integral parts on and off the field,” said Tye. The coach specifically noted that the team’s success came from the help of Leon and her fellow captains in transitioning younger players into their roles. 

“I think what I am going to miss most though is that feeling of coming off a win, being proud of your team, and being proud of how you played,” said Leon, a fifth-year biology major and soon-to-be graduate.

Looking Forward

Despite not making it as far as they would have liked to this season, the Tigers have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. 

“Every year is a new one and the team gained valuable experience the last couple of years in the playoffs,” said Tye. “We relied heavily on some young players and they will benefit from the experience and I know the group is determined to keep pushing into next season.”

One thing Leon thinks the team needs to focus on in the future is their composure while playing at a high intensity. 

“If you see some of our play this year compared to last, I would say as a team we tended to be tense and not out of fear necessarily but because we were trying to play with quality,” said Leon. 

“Playing with a high level of energy while being composed is something that we got better at and will be an important piece to master going into next season.”

Even if the Tigers are leaving the pitch with unfinished business this season, Tye still thinks this group was something special. 

“Thank you,” said Tye when she was asked what she would say to this year’s graduating class. “They have been part of the growth of a program that will continue to gain and they have laid a strong foundation through their work and leadership.”

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