ZACH JIANG, COURTESY of THE VARSITY BLUES

Blues striker Chelsea Cheung doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The fifth-year forward opened her final season for Toronto leading the Varsity Blues to an undefeated opening weekend, as Toronto tied the Trent Excalibur 1-1 and scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).

The Varsity Blues women’s soccer program has undergone an infusion over the offseason, especially on the team’s backline. Toronto started Anna Crone and Alessia Cusimano at centre back in both games, replacing longtime defenders Laura Krkachovski and Christine Mulligan who both graduated last year.

Blues outside back Kelly Johnson also made her first start for Toronto. Johnson was challenged early and often throughout the weekend, as opponents attempted to play the ball wide and utilize speed to get around Toronto’s backline.

The key to Toronto’s success this season will be the play of their attackers, Natasha Klasios, Erin Kelly, and Cheung, all of whom performed well this past weekend.

Klasios showcased why she’s one of the best strikers in Ontario University Athletics, as she scored against Trent, and registered a combined eight shots on goal over the course of the weekend. Against Trent, Klasios earned multiple one-on-one opportunities, routinely using her speed to beat Trent’s backline and challenge Excalibur goalkeeper Mackaylen Bickle.

Klasios found the back of the net on one of those chances, beating her defender and stepping around Bickle to curl a left-footed strike into the open goal.

Aside from her team-high 15 shots, Klasios also played a huge role in Cheung’s 82nd-minute game-winning-goal on Sunday. After Klasios’ initial shot was stopped, Cheung scored on the rebound to earn Toronto’s first victory of the season and its first win over UOIT since 2015.

While Erin Kelly was the only member of Toronto’s front three who failed to score, she provided the Blues with excellent holdup play in both matches. In the 18th minute, Kelly had a great chance to score against Trent, but was unable to outpace the final Trent defender, and her shot was blocked. With her towering height, the six-foot-two Kelly provided the Blues with an excellent aerial threat on set pieces, but was unable to find the back of the net.

The opening weekend also saw Kristin Parkes make a substantial impact in a starting role with the team. Parkes scored her first goal of the season in the 40th minute against UOIT, tipping home fourth-year defender Daniella Cipriano’s corner kick.

The Blues will need to finish more offensive chances and continue to tighten the play of their backline in their coming games. However, head coach Luciano Lombardi should be pleased with his team’s effort to start the season.

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