Mustangs Prevail In Wild Extra Time
Western Mustangs Women's SoccerGreg Bowman
The Western Mustangs women’s soccer team found themselves in familiar territory on Friday evening. Just as they did in 2017, they were in the OUA Final Four, and they were playing the Queens Gaels with a chance to move to the provincial championship game. What differed from last year to this though, was that the Western Mustangs were hosting the Queen’s Gaels at Mustang Field.
The Mustangs finished their regular season with a 9-2-5 record. They were undefeated for the entire season up until their final weekend of competition, where injuries and complacency would see them lose their only two games of the regular season to the Guelph Gryphons and the York Lions. They would sort out their play when the playoffs started though, as they handily beat the Laurier Golden Hawks in the OUA West Quarterfinals 1-0, before they got some retribution against the York Lions in the OUA East semis 3-2, with rookie Anna Larkin scoring the game-winning goal.
On the other side of the field, the Queens Gaels went 8-3-5 during the regular season, which earned them the second seed in the OUA East. UOttawa ran away with the division, 14 points ahead of Queens. The Gaels were led by Jenny Wolever, who scored 13 goals in 16 games as a fourth year player. Wolever would then notch herself a hat trick in their lone playoff game against the Nipissing Lakers, which ended up being a 5-1 blowout in favour of the Gaels.
A date with the Ottawa Gee Gees in the OUA Final was already set upon kickoff on Friday afternoon, as they beat the McMaster Marauders in the other Final Four matchup earlier in the day.
The first half of play saw the Gaels jump out to a quick start, evidently catching the Mustangs on their heels. Western was able to weather the storm, as they were able to settle themselves about 20 minutes into the match. From there, they controlled a majority of the play for the remainder of the half, but would go into the break tied 0-0.
Cue the dramatics.
In the 61st minute, the opening goal was scored after Julia Crnjac was able to fire a shot from 20 yards out and beat the Gaels keeper to give her team a 1-0 lead. What’s most impressive about Crnjac’s goal was that it came shortly after she was subbed into the game, which was also the first time she’s seen game action since breaking her clavicle earlier in the season. Given that the Mustangs had 10 clean sheets throughout the OUA regular season, one could assume they were in a good position when they attained the lead. The regular season is not the playoffs though, as the Gaels were able to push for the equalizer just over 10 minutes later, as Sarah Nixon headed home a back-post pass from Jenny Wolevar.
The OUA semi-finals were heading to extra time.
Most times in soccer, the extra session can be a formality to what usually results in a penalty shootout. That was not the case here. Four minutes into extra time, Kelsie McGinn would score for the Gaels to give them a 2-1 lead. The many Gaels fans in attendance were elated.
Back came the Mustangs. After a stellar defensive play from Rachael Drouillard, she would send Julia Crnjac away on a a run which she would finish, tying the game, and giving Crnjac her second goal of the game in her grand return. The dramatics wouldn’t end there. Moments later, off a free kick outside the penalty area, Anna Larkin would head in the go-ahead goal for the second straight playoff game. The Mustangs would steal back the lead, and never look back, as they advance to the OUA Gold Medal game for the second straight year, beating the Queen’s Gaels 3-2 in extra time.
It was one of the greatest extra time session imaginable. Three goals in the final 30 minutes of play, after a tooth-and-nail battle during regular time. The Mustangs prevailed over the Gaels for the second straight year, as they have earned themselves a berth in the National Championship for the second straight year. First though, is the Provincial Championship, which will be held on Sunday evening as the Western Mustangs will host the Ottawa Gee Gees at Mustang Field.