Women’s Soccer: A Young Team Finding its Footing
After Disastrous Start, Young Stingers Squad Adapt to Life in U Sports
The adjustment from CEGEP soccer into the university level can always be a challenging one. It’s a faster, more physical, and all-around more intense game that involves inevitable growing pains.
Those pains were made shockingly evident last Wednesday evening, as the Laval Rouge et Or came to Concordia Stadium and bullied the Stingers with a 10-0 takedown.
This was very much a trial by fire for a lot of the new recruits. Given that Laval was the highest-scoring team last year and is looking to get back to nationals after losing to Université de Montréal in last year’s RSEQ final, a lot of the rookies seemed a bit overwhelmed—something that was not lost on head coach Greg Sutton.
“The jump [from CEGEP] is a massive one and it’s going to take some time to adjust,” said Sutton. “Obviously this is something we’d like to see happen sooner rather than later but it’s definitely a process. Right now it’s all about having a short memory and putting games like this in the past.”
That sentiment was something that could be seen throughout the majority of the game. Due to injuries, the Stingers had to field a full rookie backline and their inexperience, which the Rouge et Or exploited effortlessly.
It only took 10 minutes for Mireille Patry to smash home a beautiful half volley after finding herself alone in the middle of the penalty area. Following that, between the twenty-ninth and sixty-second minute, Laval added seven more goals.
Not only did the Stingers struggle on the defensive side of the ball, but Laval did not give them much to work with all night. Captain and leading scorer Sarah Humes was only able to muster up a couple of half-chances and couldn’t convert on any of them. Rookie Haley Wheatley got the Stingers’ best chance of the game, forcing an impressive stop by Laval keeper Myriam Labrecque from in close.
“It’s a much faster game. The speed and physicality are things that don’t have as much of at the CEGEP level. “There’s a lot of young talent so the more games they get under their belt the more success we’ll end up having.”
Finding positives is difficult when the scoreline is in the double-digits. The opening game of the season is not always indicative of how the rest of the season will play out but the team’s success this year seems to hinge on how quickly the rookie class can adapt to life in U Sports.
“We’re building for the future here so I’m really looking forward to having this team gel together in the coming months,” said Sutton. “We knew there going to be some growing pains but we’re really happy with the team we’ve got.”
Seven rookies made their U Sports debuts as starters last night and amongst them was Haley Wheatley, who led Dawson College in scoring last year. While she had her fair share of chances, she was often alone and isolated on the right wing with little room to operate and create attacking opportunities.
“I’m part of a pretty big rookie class but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we need to play better,” said Wheatley. “There’s a lot of talented players and we all want to be here[…] there’s nowhere to go but up.”
Time to Regroup
The Stingers didn’t have much time to lick their wounds given that they were hosting the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes only two days on the 29th. They fielded an equally young starting 11, with six rookies taking the field and seemed to take charge of the pace throughout all 90 minutes.
They picked up their first positive result of the season against les Patriotes in a 1-1 draw that could have easily gone Concorida’s way had they not missed a slew of golden opportunities. Not only could they have won, but this was a massive statement game on behalf of the rookies that handled a very physical UQTR side.
The team that took the field, while comprised of mostly the same players, was completely different. They were fearless going forward and midfielder Chama Sedki—who wore the captain’s armband for the game— was dangerous going forward and provided the go-ahead goal just 20 minutes in.
While UQTR pushed for an equalizer, Concordia seemed both poised and unbothered by the waves of attacks launched by their opponent. Rookie center back Bryanna Campbell shined in only her second game at the university level.
“It feels like every game we’re just going to keep growing,” said Campbell. “As the season goes on, we’re all going to get more comfortable with each other and we showed today that we can play with more experienced teams.”
If it wasn’t for a late goal by Patriotes forward Meïla Guipro-Lebel, following a mad scramble in the box, the Stingers would’ve walked away with a well-deserved three points. Missed chances will definitely be something that Sutton’s team will need to work on.
“We should’ve won that game. Plain and simple,” said Sekhi. “We had a lot of chances and we just couldn’t put it away which is unfortunate because we have a lot of attacking skill on this team.”
The general attitude towards that result was bittersweet. Getting the first points of the season is always a positive, especially off the back of a 10-0 loss two days earlier. However, leaving points on the table will leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth. Sutton, when asked about the game, shared similar disappointment.
“I wouldn’t say it’s mission accomplished. I was disappointed. We had them on the ropes,” said Sutton. “If we had just a bit better in our work ethic I think we could’ve got another couple [goals].”
The Stingers will feel hard done by this result but should look positively towards their next two games. With matchups against Bishops (0-0-2) and Sherbrooke (0-0-2) over the next two weeks, they’ll be looking to make some additions to the win column.