A valiant team effort throughout the weekend led by midfielder Emily Ziraldo and forward Anna Costanzo wasn’t enough, as the Varsity Blues field hockey team was unable to win their fourth consecutive Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championship, falling in the semi-finals against the rival Guelph Gryphons.
The Blues didn’t go home empty-handed though, defeating the Queen’s Gaels 3–2 in an action-packed contest on Sunday afternoon to earn bronze at the OUA Championships at York University’s Alumni Field.
Costanzo provided the Blues with their first goal of the match with one of the best finishes of the season. She stick handled around her defender one-on-one and tucked a diving effort into the back of the net after being tripped by Gaels goaltender Amanda Thoo. Gaels midfielder Ciara Morrison equalized less than 10 minutes later, but Ziraldo scored on a penalty stroke in the final minutes of the first half to provide Toronto with a 2–1 advantage.
Blues forward Nicole Spring added a third goal for Toronto to start the second half. Spring dove toward the goal to tip defender Nicole Hicks’ shot from the edge of the circle into the back of the net.
After defender Nicole Gaul scored off a penalty stroke with 11 minutes remaining, the Gaels rallied to close out the match. Midfielders Rebecca Gray and Mairead Corrigan pressed Toronto’s defenders looking for a late equalizer. The Blues ultimately held on to their one-goal advantage to earn bronze.
Toronto battled through adversity, injuries, and a rough start to the season. The team sat in fifth place midway through the season and utilized a five-match unbeaten run to earn the third seed entering the tournament.
The Blues avenged an early October loss against the McGill Martlets with a commanding 2–0 victory in the quarter-finals to open the tournament on Friday. Ziraldo, who, alongside Rachel Spouge, was named a 2017 OUA all-star a day prior, accounted for both of Toronto’s goals. Ziraldo entered the tournament hot off a first-half hat-trick performance against the Western Mustangs the previous weekend.
Toronto looked dominant against the Martlets, as defenders Julia Costanzo and Taylor Fleck shut down McGill’s attack led by offensive threats Tania Iskandar, Constanza Martinez-Ramirez, and Breeshey Roskams-Hieter. The Blues maintained possession and control of the tempo throughout the match. Ziraldo opened the scoring in the first minute, receiving a pass from Anna Costanzo, stick handled around a defender, and fired a shot past the Martlets goalkeeper. Her second goal of the match came early in the second half off a corner. Ziraldo won the ball at the top of the circle, angled her body away from her defender, and fired a backhanded shot into the back of the net.
The Blues’ lone loss of the tournament came in semi-finals at the hands of Guelph in a rain-soaked match on Saturday morning. Guelph, the eventual OUA Championship runner-ups, outmanoeuvred Toronto despite the conditions. The Blues had trouble connecting passes and creating a calculated attack, even maintaining their balance in a few instances during the match.
Guelph forward Olivia Finch opened the scoring in the seventh minute, and 10 minutes later fellow attacker Alexa Corrado added a second goal for the Gryphons. Anna Costanzo provided the Blues with a few quality chances but was unable to beat Guelph goaltender Morgan Kelley, who made five saves in the game.