The McGill Martlets (4-6-2) came out hungry for redemption against the Laval Rouge et Or (11-0-1) at Molson Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 23 after being dominated by the CIS’ number one seed in the last meeting between the two teams on September 25. Ultimately, McGill came away heartbroken as the visitors edged out the Martlets 1-0.
McGill looked as though they were going to take an early lead courtesy of fifth-year senior Captain Daphnee Morency, but an offside call broke up her dangerous dribble down the left of the field. After the Martlets regained possession, Morency once again attacked down the wing and crossed the ball for a quality opportunity in front of the net. Laval goalie Marie-Joelle Vandal made an excellent save, however, setting the defensive tone for the rest of the first half. For McGill, senior goaltender Cassandra Fafalios was more than her match and snuffed out Laval’s two decent first half scoring opportunities—at one point making a spectacular diving save near the top-left corner of the net.
“We could have been at half 1-0 on our side,” Head Coach Jose-Luis Valdes said. “The organization, the willingness to play, the willingness to close them down and actually win the ball from them was actually quite good on our side.”
The second half saw the fans getting feisty: The Laval men’s soccer team–who had come to cheer on their women’s squad–exchanged bilingual barbs with the McGill fight band. The Rouge Et Or showed with an intensity they lacked in the first half and scored a quick goal at the start of the period. Laval striker Jessica Bunker caught the McGill defence in a rare moment of flat footedness and attacked down the right side of the pitch to sneak a goal just past the diving Fafalios.
“Second half, they got a quick goal right at the start of the half,” Valdes said. “But we didn’t shut down. We kept going. We kept playing. The wind was in our face, which wasn’t easy to have in the second half.”
A bright spot during the match for the Martlets was their solid defensive unit, which tightened after the Rouge Et Or’s goal and shut down an onslaught of offensive opportunities.
“The backline was strong throughout the game,” Valdes said of his defensive unit. “We had to make a couple of subs in the second half because of injuries [.…] We had that instability for a couple of minutes.”
McGill’s playoff hopes ended with this defeat. For now, the team is looking forward to next weekend against UDEM—which is both homecoming and the last Martlet soccer home game of the season. Festivities will include honouring the seniors and welcoming alumni who played for the Martlets in the past. Former McGill soccer star and current professional player Amber Allen will be inducted into the McGill Sports Hall of Fame. Though there is much to look forward to, there’s also a lot to build upon after Sunday evening’s match.
“The girls made a huge effort against the number one team in the country,” Valdes said. “We can’t really complain.”
Quotable: “The last time we played Laval, we [were] kind of got intimidated from the start. We gave up an early goal and they piled on a couple more after that. We kind of got startled [….] Whereas today, we were able to eliminate a lot of their options, take away their rhythm from the play, and then we were able to combine a few passes.” – Head Coach Jose-Luis Valdes
Stat of the game: Two yellow cards were given to an aggressive Laval team.
Moment of the game: Olivia Lusterio-Adler, a forward from Beaconsfield, Quebec, blocked what seemed like a sure Laval goal with her face after a quick pass created a stellar scoring opportunity for Laval.