On Saturday afternoon, the U of T Varsity Blues took to their home field to welcome the Carleton Ravens in women’s soccer. The fifth-place Blues were looking for a very important three points to overtake the Ravens and Queens.
Both sides started with a 4-5-1 formation, but while the Blues came out with a strong offence, the Ravens were content to play for a draw. The Blues pressed forward, creating some brilliant attack opportunities. The Ravens countered with faster play, which caused some difficulties for the Blues early in the game.
The Blues squandered an early opportunity to score in the 17th minute. A brilliant cross was played to striker Zoe Carty, who unfortunately slipped right in front of the goal. Sensing that the Blues were playing a long ball style, the Ravens played more defensively, often with 10 players behind the ball. The Blues followed up with a great shot in the 26th minute, which unfortunately missed the near post by the slimmest of margins. Building on a goal kick, the Ravens threatened with a very successful counter in the 28th minute, but the Blues centre backs quickly shut down any threat.
U of T finally broke open the scoring in the 40th minute with a great long ball, followed by a brilliant shot to the outside corner by sophomore Claudia Piazza, to take a 1-0 lead.
In an attempt to take home at least a single point, Carleton switched to a more offensive style with multiple substitutions around the 80th minute and had a few good opportunities in the box. The Blues beat the Ravens 1-0, taking home an important three points and moving up in the standings to fourth place. U of T dominated the match overall, limiting the Ravens to two decent scoring opportunities. Although the margin of victory was slim, the Blues never looked as though they were going to lose, outshooting the Ravens 9-3.
Playing an eye-pleasing offensive style of soccer, U of T demonstrated a level of tactical coherence and confidence that bodes very well for their playoff chances. Lethal down the wings, the Varsity Blues pressed the Ravens’ defence and easily exploited the two sides of the box, delivering multiple effective crosses and constantly challenging Carleton’s goalkeeper.
Claudia Piazza played a decisive role in today’s game. Currently the leading scorer on the Blues with five goals, she not only scored the only goal of the match, she also very effectively dominated the midfield, pushing up while controlling possession and blunting the Ravens’ attack at the same time. On the field for the full 90, Piazza was the game-changer in this critical match.
With the victory over Carleton, the Blues solidify their playoff position in the OUA. U of T played the University of Ottawa on Sunday, losing 2-0. The team currently sits in fourth place. With nine points ahead of seventh place and five games to go, they should easily make the playoffs. Vying for first place in the division may be unrealistic, but considering the strong attack and strategic play I saw, the championship is attainable.