The McGill Martlets (0-0-2) began their RSEQ season in front of a crowd of over 500 at Molson Stadium. They faced off against the sixth-ranked Montreal Carabins (2-0-0) for the first of two meetings this season after going 1-1 last year against the squad from Outremont.
The Martlets started by immediately controlling the ball and setting the pace of the game. The match marked the home debut of Head Coach Jose-Luis Valdes, and it was clear from the outset that McGill’s game plan revolved around keeping the Carabins on their heels. However, their aggressive gameplay translated into a quick offside call just 48 seconds into the match, as well as a number of fouls a few minutes in. McGill forward Sarah Bourque was key to the offensive attack as she looked to create opportunities early on.
The Martlets’ frontline shared the ball with precision and composure during the first half. Yet it was clear that standout Carabins goalie Martine Julien would pose a problem for the Martlets as she managed to deny all four shots in the first half.
“We kept possession of the ball very well and moved it around with composure,” noted sophomore defender Zoe Fasoulakis. “However, we didn’t really threaten their goal enough, and should have finished the chances [that] we got.”
The second half began with a lacklustre effort by both teams. Following the first-half total of 8-6 shots-on-net differential between McGill and Montreal respectively, the game finished with a mere three additional shots by the Martlets and only two by the Carabins.
Despite the low shot total, Montreal forward Chloe Malette managed to convert in the 64th minute, firing a rocket past McGill goalie Victoria Muccilli. Malette’s goal clinched the game for the Carabins, 1-0. The match then turned into a messy affair, with two Martlet players penalized with yellow cards in the dying minutes of the game.
Despite the loss, there was a clear bright point for McGill as the Martlet defenders were quick to their positions and eager to pressure the Montreal attack. The hosts managed to disrupt the Carabins offence every time they ventured into McGill’s defensive zone, forcing numerous shots wide of the net.
It is clear that Valdes has secured a relaxed and comfortable environment for his players, which will be key as the team hopes to integrate a good mix of new and old players alike. Furthermore, he has succeeded in getting his players to buy into his system since the departure of Marc Mounicot, now head coach of the Redmen.
“We always have a game plan specific to each match. In the changing room we always keep a relaxed atmosphere…our playlist is super important,” said second-year forward Kristina Pearkes.
Fousalakis added that the team makes sure “to relax and get pumped up for the game. Also, we focus on some game strategies that our coach has told us previously [about our] opponent.”
The team may still have a bright season ahead, despite this loss to the nationally ranked Carabins. A stout defence should anchor McGill during the transition period, as Valdes hopes to bring together a talented squad. The Martlets will be a very tough team to beat once they begin to make the most of their numerous attacking moves.
McGill continues its pursuit of Nationals this Friday, Sept 13th as they play host to the UQTR Patriotes (0-0-2) in what will be a critical match in turning around their young season.