By: Dalhousie Sports Information
This week's Flashback Friday features the 2011-12 women's soccer team.
FRONT ROW (L-R): Doriana Homerski, Beth O'Reilly, Emma Landry, Anna McKilligan, Rieka Santilli, Stephanie Crewe, Joanna Blodgett, Biannca Jakisa
MIDDLE ROW (L-R): Taryn McKenna, Jenna Gabriel, Cleo Breton, Kristy MacGregor-Bales, Andi Vanderlann, Lauren Landry, Ashley Donnelly, Daphne Wallace, Shannon Junor
BACK ROW (L-R): Gary Carter (Asst. Coach), Pamela King, Megan Willox, Allison Balan, Jack Hutchison
The women’s soccer team started their season with thirteen new players, including 11 rookies. To add to the challenge of getting the new players adjusted to the AUS, our captain Rieka Santilli entered training camp with a strained MCL, however she was able to return to the team in time for regular season play. After missing the 2010-11 season with a broken leg there was concern for her return to the Dal lineup. Despite these challenges the Tigers were off to a roaring start before they knew it.
The ladies opened their season with a win over SMU (1-0) and a loss to UPEI (2-1) at home. After the first two games the coaching staff and team were excited to see the potential. Head coach Jack Hutchison was quoted in the Gazette saying, “If these girls get to the AUS championship I like their chances.” The Tigers would go on to place third in the AUS with nine wins, three losses and one tie. First-year players adjusted well and each game would find at least four of them on the field at all times. Also, despite early season concerns about Reika’s health, she managed to play every game and led the team in scoring.
At the AUS championship in November Dal faced the host, UNB, in the quarter-final game. In a game dominated by nerves, the Tigers got the advantage with an early lead. The black and gold continued to pressure the UNB squad and finished the game with a 2-0 win.
The semifinal game was against cross-town rival Saint Mary’s, a team the Tigers knew well. Dal had recently lost to SMU 1-0 in the last few games of the regular season and knew that this game would be a battle. At the half the Tigers found themselves down 1-0 to the Huskies even though they were playing well. The coaches urged them to continue to play hard to catch the breaks they needed and with renewed energy Dal broke down the SMU defense to score in the first five minutes of the second half. By the midway point the black and gold had a 2-1 lead. SMU fought back and was able to tie the score, but first-year striker Dorianna Homerski put the ball in the Huskies net late in the game to secure the win.
In the championship final the Tigers were up against league-leading UPEI, a team they had not seen since the opening weekend of the season. Scoreless after the first half, Dal once again opened the second half with a goal, this time from veteran midfielder Emma Landry. Dal dominated the play to the last second and Joanna Blodgett secured the black and gold victory with a goal in extra time for the Tigers to capture their first AUS title in 10 years. After post-game celebrations and a very exciting bus ride back to Dal, the team turned their focus towards the CIS championship in Montreal.
At the CIS Championship the Tigers would meet Ottawa in their first game. With 11 rookies and only one player, Rieka Santilli, having CIS experience, no one knew what to expect. An excellent first half put the black and gold in the lead (1-0), but after the first ten minutes of the second half Dal was down 3-1. A few changes in the line-up put a halt to the Ottawa offence and once again the Tigers were in the game. Midway through the half Dorianna Homerski woke Dal up with her second goal of the game off a well-executed play. The girls fought hard but could not find the third goal needed to tie the match. In the consolation game the next day Dal faced the University of Alberta and could not find the energy needed to compete. Their CIS experience would end with a 2-0 loss. Although this was not the conclusion the Tigers had planned, the experience will only better prepare them for future returns to the CIS championship.
A number of players received AUS honours for their exceptional play on the field. First-year Kristy MacGregor-Bales was named an AUS second team All-Star along with netminder Taryn McKenna and midfielder Joanna Blodgett. Captain Rieka Santilli, who led the Tigers was honoured as an AUS first team All-Star and a CIS first team All-Canadian.
Many thanks from the coaching staff on a great season. With 21 out of 22 players returning the future looks bright for the Tigers women’s soccer team.