This past Saturday, January 19, before the crack of dawn, the UTM women’s varsity soccer team filled onto a coach bus to the Pickering Soccer Club for the 2019 Centennial College Invitational, their first soccer tournament of the season.

It was a full day, and the women put forward a formidable effort. In total they played 5 matches, ranking third out of an overall seven.

Their first match was against the Laurier Golden Hawks, and our Eagles went into the match ready to conquer, scoring a goal within the first minute of the game. The team started the first game with almost everyone on the roster slated for field time, but unfortunately one of the team captains, Azza Adhoum, sustained an ankle injury, effectively immobilizing her for the rest of the tournament.

That didn’t keep our Eagles down however. They played their first match with a strong midfield, and a heavy-handed offence. Towards the end of the match, the Golden Hawks managed to stumble a goal into our net, but the girls sought immediate retribution, sliding a goal right back in the opponent’s net, claiming the win 2-1.

In their second match, the team went head to head with the Sheridan Bruins, facing a little more offensive heat from their opponent in this game than the last, but putting forth a strong defensive wall. Vanessa Cesario was a driving offensive force, making passes for the goal every chance she got, without hesitation.

Other team captain, Kayla Rice, fiercely worked the midfield, and drove offense at her every opportunity. A couple minutes to the match call, the Bruins player gets blue carded in a minor confrontation with Rice. Noor Aldoori steadily held down the defensive fort.

The women put up a fierce resistance, but after quite the struggle, the Bruins slipped in a goal, ultimately taking the match 0-1.

“We had a good performance, and I think we managed to rattle Sheridan a bit. We matched their level and put on a good fight. We’ve lost to them in the past, but I think we’ve improved a lot since then,” Aldoori weighs in after the match. With regard to their next match—“Our coaches have been watching how they move. They’re really fast, and there’s one girl who is always blocking up front. It’s a challenge but I think if we bring the same energy as our last game, we can really drive it home.”

And that they did. Their third match was against the Conestoga Condors. The girls played hard, put up a stone wall defense, and really pushed the offense, but ultimately the match was a impasse. Two minutes to the match call, there was a controversial ref call in favour of the Condors, that ultimately opened the door for them to score a goal. Once again, the Eagles sought their retribution, Isabella Charum making the last-minute goal, closing the match at a tie, 1-1.

After the match, Rice weighs in, “The call was a little controversial, but we let it get to us a little more than it should have, which I think is what lowered our guard just long enough to let the other team score. What we need to remember is that even if the ref makes a bad call, the game goes on. We still have to play our best.” As for their headspace going into their next match against the Centennial Colts, “They’re not as strong, they’re a slower team. So, I think if we come out right away with our guns blazing, it’ll throw them off track. I think an early goal will shake their confidence enough for us to win.”

The Colts came with a little more offensive pressure than anticipated, and the teams were head to head. We saw a lot of offensive drive from our girls in this match, Emilia Missing taking the initiative every opportunity she got. There were a few close calls for both teams, but the match was starting to look like another impasse. In the last moments of the match, Charum scores the winning goal, putting our Eagles in conditional third place, slating them in for a final rematch against their first opponents of the day, the Laurier Golden Hawks.

Our Eagles drove a hard bargain, Rice and Charum driving a tag-team offensive play at the onset of the match. The Golden Hawks came back with a vengeance however, making a formidable attempt to take the Eagles’ place in third. Five minutes into the match, Laurier landed a goal. Our girls amped up their defense but doubled down on their offense, and really picked things up in the final moments. Rice and Sydney Miller managed to make back to back goals in the critical last minutes of the game, claiming another uncontestable victory at 2-1.

After the tournament, a proud coach Sonia Carreiro tells The Medium the women are a team to watch this season— “The girls team had a great turnout. They played really well as a unit and showed great potential for making provincials this year.”