By Kirk Jessome
The 2018 season was full of high hopes for the Tigers women’s soccer team. After a strong turnaround season with a young roster and with a winning record for the first time in three years, the group looked to capitalize on that momentum with a deeper run in the AUS playoffs.
Getting off to a hot start, the Tigers picked up wins in their first four matches of the pre-season, with 2017 AUS rookie of the year, Kate Fines earning four shutouts. They also won their first four matches of the regular season, finishing with an impressive 5-2 record heading into the Thanksgiving break, thanks to contributions from three young strikers in Riley Donovan, Josie Oickle and Sofia Nicolls.
“All of our young players bring something a bit different to our team and showed that they can compete and be impactful in the league,” say head coach Cindy Tye. “With the year under their belts, they will continue to develop and add even more options to our attacking threats.”
The second half was a tougher schedule for the Tigers, and the offence struggled to find the back of the net in their first three games back with Stephanie Dyck scoring the lone goal for the Tigers in a draw against StFX. Thankfully, the scoring returned in time for their last two games of the regular season, with a 2-1 win over UPEI at home and a 3-0 win over Moncton, clinching a spot in the AUS championship.
Looking to make up for a disappointing loss in the first round in the previous post-season, the Tigers 7-4-1 record was good for the third seed in the conference tournament.
The Tigers faced the sixth-seeded Memorial Sea-Hawks in the quarter-final, a strong defensive team who had conceded just eight goals in 12 games. Try as they might, the Tigers couldn’t seem to solve the back line of the Sea-Hawks and were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round with a 4-0 loss.
Coach Tye spoke to the level of offensive creativity they were forced to show in that matchup.
“The Memorial team was well-organized and have talent in goal. That forced us to try and find other ways to solve them which obviously proved difficult, but with our core group of young attackers gaining experience we will add to our diversity up front next year.”
That diversity is part of the overall plan that Tye and her team have begun to develop as they look to make a meaningful run towards an AUS banner next season.
“We need to be more resilient in the tough moments, and that is part of the environment we are continuing to build since the season ended. This group is no longer ‘just happy to be here’ and is gaining confidence each year.”