13 Oct Niagara College pitch perfect in women’s soccer
Before they can raise a banner to celebrate a medal at the Ontario championships, the Niagara College women’s soccer team will need to raise the bar.
While the Knights went undefeated in league play for the first time in the program’s history, a 4-0 victory over visiting Redeemer to close out the season at Youngs Sportsplex in Welland did not accomplish the overall mission. It only set the stage for the next phase: the qualifying round for the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) championships.
Despite entering the post-season as only one of two teams to go 6-0, the Knights did not punch their picket directly to provincials taking place Oct. 29 and 30 at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., as they completed a sweep of the season series with the Royals. Along with Seneca, which also won all of its regular-season games in the pandemic-shortened schedule, Niagara needs to win a quarter-final on its home pitch to move on to the OCAA championships.
“We’re so proud of the team and what they accomplished this season,” head coach Rob Lalama said. “We need to get to work and prepare.
“The ladies know we need to raise the bar.”
First-half goals — Sydney Sica, 11:37 minutes in; Teri Hultink, 21:30; and Katelyn Mix, 25:08 — gave the Knights a commanding lead heading into the final half. Rylan Geatrix rounded out the scoring with an even-strength marker at 74:51.
Niagara outshot Redeemer 33-6, but Knights goalkeeper Sierra Naccarato only needed to make four saves — two in each half — to record her fourth shutout of the season. Her 0.40 goals-against average was third in the league behind Seneca’s Raven Edwards and St.Lawrence-Kingston’s Constance Laroche-Lefebvre, both 0.00 with six and four shutouts, respectively.
Hultink and Sica, co-captains and graduates of high schools in the Niagara region, each netted their ninth goals of the season to finish tied for the team lead. Hultink, from Fenwick, attended Smithville Christian, while Sica, a Niagara Falls native, attended Ryerson University and Brock after graduating from Saint Michael Catholic High School.
Their nine goals in league play lift Hultink and Sica into a three-way tie with Jackie Lawther for most goals in a single season in women’s soccer at the region’s community college.
This year’s co-captains are alone at the top when it comes to scoring efficiency. They only needed six games to tie the record, while Lawther set the record playing 10 regular-season games in 2015-16.
A home-and-home series with Redeemer opened with Niagara winning 2-0 in the season opener Sept. 18 at Ancaster.
Niagara will either host Humber, second place, Central Division; or Durham, third, East; in a quarter-final Saturday, Oct. 23, at Youngs Sportsplex in Welland.
Royals 4, Knights 1
At Welland, previously winless Redeemer jumped out to a 4-0 lead and handed host Niagara its second loss in a row in men’s college soccer despite being outshot 17-8.
Liam Mitchell put the Knights on the scoreboard 75:43 into the game.
Niagara, which blanked the Royals 1-0 on the road open the season series, ends the regular season third in the South Division with a 2-4 record.
On Saturday, the Knights will be in Windsor playing St. Clair, second, West; in a cross-over qualifier.
“The weekend can’t come quick enough for us and I look forward to a productive week at training,” Niagara men’s soccer head coach Frank DeChellis said. “Our team is very capable of playing at high levels and we fear nobody.
“We do have some areas of concern and I am proud of how they work together to cover for that. We have had some frustrating moments for sure, but they keep moving forward and that is motivating for us as coaches.”
Niagara did not play St. Clair during the regular season due to COVID-19 restrictions. Besides shortening the regular season, to six from 10 games, the OCAA limited teams to playing home-and-home series within their divisions.
A victory in Saturday’s must-win playoff in Windsor is only the first hurdle the Knights must clear to return to the men’s soccer championships. They also must beat Durham, the top seed from the East Division, in a quarter-final Saturday, Oct. 23, in Oshawa.
Instead of an eight-team tournament, as was the case in 2019 when college soccer was last played in Ontario, this year’s championships will feature only four teams. Provincials take place Oct. 29 and 30 at St. Clair College in Windsor.
Credit: Source link