“It all starts in the back” was the motto hammered into the McGill Martlets before their important match against the No.1-ranked Montreal Carabins. If the final result were any indication, the Martlets must have fully embraced this philosophy. McGill decisively shut down the mighty Carabins 2-1 last Thursday evening at the annual “Pack the Pitch” game.
Although Montreal appeared to be in control of the ball for the first ten minutes of the match, this was in large part due to McGill’s defensive strategy.
“Today, we were defending with low pressure, meaning we gave them a lot of time in the back,” McGill forward Daphnee Morency-Roussin explained. “I think that maybe they weren’t really used to that … and that was a good technique.”
What Morency-Roussin implied was that Montreal’s defense could pass freely between themselves, but when the Carabins attempted to make a move forward, McGill would meet it with a steadfast defence. As a result, the Carabins had to move the ball back to their defence time and time again.
Once their defence was established, the Martlets went on the offensive, using the quickness and agility of their forwards advantageously. Their efforts were rewarded when, in the 14th minute, McGill lobbed a ball deep into opposing territory and Montreal goalkeeper Martine Julien tried to make an aggressive play by grabbing the ball while still airborne. She fumbled it, leaving the goal mouth empty, and Morency-Roussin calmly sent it in, giving the Martlets a 1-0 edge.
Following their initial success, the Martlets continued to work as a unit as the first half progressed. This all started with confident goalkeeping by McGill’s Victoria Muccilli who, unlike her Carabins counterpart, made her presence known by punching crosses out of the box. Additionally, the Martlet defenders also played a smart game, supporting Muccilli brilliantly by clearing anything that came into harm’s way.
The difference in the contest however, can be credited to the midfield, as Montreal had no answer to the Martlets and consistently allowed through balls past its backline. Midfielder Hannah Rivkin played an especially astounding game, as she assumed a key role in setting up many scoring chances throughout. After the game, Rivkin offered her take on creating offensive opportunities.
“It usually builds up. It starts with a good solid pass to my feet from someone in the back and then it ends with someone making a beautiful run”.
Unfortunately, this complete style of play was lost early in the second half, and McGill allowed Montreal to break even in the 55th minute.
“The problem was [that] we panicked and sent the ball in the air,” Head Coach Marc Mounicot said. “For two to three minutes we were panicking and [Montreal] finished because they are a good team.”
Neverthless, the Martlets were quick to respond and were able to regain their advantage. They scored their second goal just eight minutes later, in the 63rd minute, as Rebecca Green passed to Julia Conzon who then powered it home. Coach Mounicot gave his thoughts on the goal.
“It was a trademark of the way we play and the way we can play which is passing the ball, a combination play, and a nice finish”.
Throughout the game, Montreal became more aggressive. Three yellow cards were given to the Carabins as they took their frustration out on McGill. Morency-Roussin discussed the increased physical aspect of the game.
“I think we kept our composure pretty well … that’s the key in those types of games, because if you lose your composure, it becomes a blood battle, and it’s not even soccer anymore.”
The Martlets followed up their statement win with another victory against Bishop’s, 8-0. They return to the pitch on Sept. 28 to take on Sherbrooke.