The UTM women’s varsity soccer team had their first tournament of the season last Saturday, January 13. The tournament was hosted by Centennial College but took place at the Pickering Soccer Centre. The women originally had five teams in their division, including UTM, though St. Lawrence removed themselves from the tournament—leaving them with only four teams.

The women had an early start to their day—departing UTM at 6:45 a.m. to be in Pickering before their first game at 9:00 a.m. against the Sheridan Bruins. From the start of the game, the women were not mentally focused. Perhaps the early bus departure played a role in the women not playing well. Sheridan came out hard, giving UTM hardly any opportunities to take shots on the net. Four minutes into the match, Sheridan scored their first goal of the tournament. An unfortunate fumble by UTM goal keeper, Nida Zaidi, led to a turnover by UTM. Sheridan took their opportunity to score and buried the ball into the back of the net. UTM was forced to defend against many counterattacks by Sheridan and did well to shut them down—by not allowing Sheridan anymore goals in the first half. The half rested at 1-0 with UTM still having a chance to come back and win the game. However, an unfortunate defensive breakdown led to Sheridan’s second goal of the game. UTM had more chances in the second-half but could not seem to find the back of the net. The score ended 2-0 for Sheridan, giving UTM their first loss of the indoor season.

Up next was the Centennial College Colts—the hosts of the tournament. Unlike the first game, UTM came out ready to win. UTM was playing well and making several connecting passes and overlapping runs. Team captain, Christina Rico, worked hard to keep the ball in play which created a scoring opportunity for UTM. Rico passed it off to newcomer, Kat Savin, where she made a perfect pass to fellow new addition, Kristy Mlakar, in front of the Colts net. Mlakar took a rocket shot and it travelled into the bottom left corner. The women won the game 1-0, giving them their first win of the day.

Seeing as the women both lost and won a game, they had no choice but to win their final game if they wanted to advance to the finals of the tournament. Their last outdoor game of the season ended with their first Varsity win against the George Brown College Huskies (GBC). Hoping to mirror this pattern once more, UTM was mentally engaged in the game. The women came out hard from the start and didn’t back down the whole way through. Mlakar was first to put UTM on the scoreboard by taking her now-signature rocket shot. It deflected off a GBC player’s stomach and into the back of the net. UTM used the adrenaline brought on by this goal for the rest of the game. Graduating player, Teagan Maier-Downing, made a beautiful cross field pass to Rico, where she one-timed it into the net with ease.

Frustration was clearly setting in for GBC as UTM was shutting down every chance they had. Towards the end of the game, GBC had possession of the ball in the UTM zone. The GBC goalie was caught too far up in the play and not anticipating any counterattacks that may take place. The ball was passed to Maier-Downing and as the GBC goalie was running back to her net, Maier-Downing made the smart decision of making a hard pass towards the net from half. A perfectly placed ball rolled straight into the back of the night, leading UTM to take the game 3-0 over GBC and advancing to the finals of the tournament. The women have never made it to the finals of any tournament at the Varsity level so, this was a huge accomplishment for them.

UTM played the Sheridan Bruins for the second time that day in the championship game. Both teams came ready to win. Unfortunately, it was Sheridan who was destined to score first. Near the start of the game, Sheridan scored two goals but this was followed by a UTM goal. Maier-Downing fought through the midfielder and defender on the left side and took a wicked shot to the bottom corner of the net. This left UTM to only be down by one goal. Towards the end of the first half, a Sheridan player took an incredible toe punted shot towards the UTM net. The ball was placed perfectly in the top right corner, making it almost impossible for Zaidi to save it. This allowed the score to end 3-1 at halftime but UTM did not give up. UTM coaches, Damian Yearwood and Sonia Rocha, made the decision to put Noor Aldoori in net for Zaidi. Towards the start of the second half, Sheridan arguably scored the luckiest goal of the day. Aldoori went to clear the ball out of the UTM zone but, unfortunately, it deflected off of a Sheridan player, took a few odd bounces, and ended up in the back of the net. Despite the score being 4-1, UTM maintained their level of intensity and aggression. During the last six minutes of the game, Rico passed the ball to defender, Jayde Forde, where she shot the ball into the bottom right corner of the net. This made the score 4-2 for Sheridan. With three minutes left to play, UTM was pressing and working hard to score. Unfortunately, time was not on their side as they did not have enough of it. Sheridan ended up taking the game 4-2.

Despite the hard loss against Sheridan in the finals, UTM has much to be proud of. Seeing as this was their first tournament of the season and they placed second, it is looking like a promising season ahead for UTM.

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