Though the Dalhousie women’s soccer team enters the playoffs in fifth position, they remain confident they can take home the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championship on their home turf.
“Anything can happen,” says Jenna Goobie, a fourth-year striker for the Tigers. “It’s about who wants it more and there’s no other team in this league that wants it more than us.”
The Tigers capped off their final weekend of play with a scoreless draw against the St. FX X-Women and a 2-1 loss to the Memorial Seahawks. Their regular season record stands at 6-4-3.
Dal’s first playoff game is against the fourth-ranked Acadia Axewomen, who finished just above the Tigers at 5-1-7. The teams have faced each other on two different occasions this year, drawing both matches by scores of 0-0 and 1-1.
The UNB Varsity Reds (10-1-2) and the Seahawks (9-3-1) finished in the top two positions, resulting in each team receiving a first round bye. The V-Reds will face the quarterfinal winner with the lowest regular season standing, while the Seahawks face the winner with the highest.
After starting off slow, the Tigers started finding their groove after the midway point of the season, beating the Moncton Aigles Bleus 7-0 and the CIS 10th-ranked Varsity Reds 1-0. They continued their strong play the following weekend against the Axewomen, controlling the majority of the game but letting it slip in the final minutes to only walk away with one point. The Tigers then shut the UPEI Panthers down 2-0 on homecoming weekend.
Goobie said their road trip in New Brunswick was the turning point for her team.
“I can’t even tell you how great that was,” she said. “It was definitely the highlight of the season. The UNB game was the same feeling of winning an AUS (championship).”
Hutchison started implementing a 3-4-3 formation rather than the original 3-3-4 to take opportunities away from their opponents at midfield. He said he noticed the strategy work in their 2-0 win over the Saint Mary’s Huskies on Sept. 27 and continued to utilize it moving forward.
“We’ve found the right places for the right people to be,” said Hutchison. “We were getting opened up in the middle of the park and it was too easy for other teams to play against us and attack us.”
Dal’s effective communication along their back end has kept them in some tight, low scoring matches. Veteran defenseman Kristy McGregor-Bales says the defensive line steadily improved throughout the season.
“We picked up our communication and have just gotten a lot more used to each other,” she said. “We started using each others strengths to stop the other team’s attacks.”
Hutchison has rotated between Katie Morgan and Rachel Hunt in net throughout the season. Morgan started seven games, while Hunt started six. Hutchison said the one that starts against Acadia is still up in the air. When asked who will get the nod, he said, “That’s the million dollar question.”
“We’ve switched them up and given the both opportunities, and I have to be honest and say both them have stepped up,” he said.
Goobie and McGregor-Bales have previously won an AUS title with the Tigers. Goobie said there are several similarities and differences between this year’s team and her team that won the championship.
“The past years, Dalhousie’s had a great team. But this year, we’ve had to figure it out for ourselves,” she said. “It made it a bit rocky, but now we’ve hit the ground running.”
Hutchison, as well, knows his team has what it takes to win his third title in four years.
“If our girls can knock the ball around, I feel they can play with anyone in the country.”