All visiting field hockey teams that play at Lamport Stadium are learning quickly that if they don’t play a perfect game, the Varsity Blues will roll over them with ease.
This weekend’s field hockey games at Lamport stadium lent credence to the idea that it’s no longer a question of whether the Varsity Blues women’s team will defend their OUA title this season, but in what manner they do it.
The team came into this weekend’s double-header undefeated, holding on to fifth place in CIS (nation-wide) standings. The Blues continued their impressive run with a 2-0 win over the Queen’s Golden Gaels and a 7-0 slaughter of McGill University on Sunday. It was the fifth consecutive game in which the Blues have not let in a goal, which is a testament to the team’s defensive effort.
“Our goalies are very talented and I know that we can rely on them when the time comes, but our defense has been phenomenal this season,” said head coach Beth Ali. “(The goalies) practice a lot and are ready for anything, but they haven’t seen much action yet.”
U of T’s strong defense was present in spades this weekend, but Wednesday’s 0-0 draw against York showed just how tight the women are playing in their own zone. The Blues did not allow York a single shot on net during the contest, and blitzed the opposition with 24 shots.
Blues goalie Sarah Lipton was also quick to deflect praise onto her team’s defensive effort. “Our defense has been great. [The] goalies haven’t touched the ball in the last three games,” she said.
The strong defensive play has spurred on incredible offensive performances such as Sunday’s 7-0 win. But despite the huge margin of victory, players and coaches agree that the team needs to capitalize on their offensive chances.
“We are playing well and generating a lot of opportunities, but we have to work on capitalizing on those chances,” said defender Alex Chacinski. “If we want to be successful like last year and be prepared for big games, we have to start capitalizing on our chances,” she said.
In the first game of Sunday’s double header, the Blues came out slow against Queens, but kept battling on offense. The two goals scored were more than enough as the defense once again triumphed. During the game against McGill, U of T came out flying and was unstoppable in the opponent’s zone, getting key contributions from Erin Fraser and Christine DeSantis.
Coach Ali said that she is looking forward to the playoffs, where she believes her team will once again be a serious contender.
“I think that it will be a good, tough battle between us and Waterloo again this year,” said Ali cautiously, trying not to jinx her team’s chances. “If we can convert our chances and continue our strong defensive performance, we’ll be fine.”
Photograph by Simon Turnbull