Chelsea Cheung and Natasha Klasios led the Blues to a hard fought victory. PHOTO BY MARTIN BAZYL/THE VARSITY BLUES

On a chilly autumn evening, the Varsity Blues women’s soccer team closed out their regular season with a win against the Nipissing Lakers.

Anticipation was in the air at Varsity Stadium as the sun set and the game began.

The Blues struggled to get their rhythm at the beginning of the first half. Some cracks in the defense offered a few opportunities for the Lakers. At a mere six minutes into the game, Nipissing’s Lauren De Jong got a shot on net after a free kick. While Blues goalkeeper Vanna Staggolis initially stumbled, she managed to swap the ball up in an impressive recovery.

As the game progressed, the Blues managed to keep their momentum up with a few close opportunities. In the 11th minute, the Blues got on the end of a cross, but the ball immediately went over the net. At the 25-minute mark, after a cross from the right wing, Blues midfielder Julia Gonsalves managed to control the ball with her chest but once again couldn’t find the back of the net.

As halftime neared, Blues striker Natasha Klasios turned the game around by sneaking past a Lakers defender in a one-on-one and easily slipping the ball into the corner of the net, past Nipissing goalkeeper Mykaela Volpe.

The Blues came into second half with Erin Kelly substituting for Gonsalves. Kelly was a strong presence on the field, providing Toronto with fast-paced energy and strong footwork.

Early into the half, it was clear that Nipissing was hungry for a goal. Nipissing forward Andrea Young had two close calls around the 50-minute mark — the first was saved by Staggolis and the second ran wide — all in the span of three minutes. After a scramble in the penalty box during the 69th minute, Young managed to get a shot on net. Responding quickly, Staggolis made a beautiful diving save.

Despite the increasing pressure from Nipissing, the Blues managed to keep their composure. Toronto’s front line was consistently solid leading up to the team’s second goal of the night. In the 76th minute, after a solid run, Klasios placed a perfect pass to Blues captain Chelsea Cheung, who scored firmly, leaving little time for Volpe to react.

The end of the match saw both teams get physical. A minute after Cheung’s goal, Nipissing forward Abby Wroe received a yellow card for running into Staggolis after she received the ball. Staggolis quickly shoved Wroe away, adding a tense atmosphere to the game.

The Lakers received a corner kick at the 85th minute, when Staggolis saved an attempt on goal by Wroe. Within the minute, Nipissing received a second corner — this time, Wroe found the net from inside the six-yard box.

Both teams played hard up until the last seconds of extra time. The game ended with the Blues firing nine shots, making six saves, and receiving eight fouls. The Lakers had 10 shots, three saves, and six fouls.

The win wraps up the Blues’ regular season with five wins, six losses, and four ties.

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