The Thunder women’s soccer team traveled to Montreal to play in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national championship at the Montreal Soccer Stadium from Nov. 9 to Nov. 12. Out of eight teams from five different provinces, Algonquin finished fifth in the nation.

After their loss to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks on Nov. 11, Algonquin was forced into a placement match for fifth or sixth place against the Grand Prairie Regional College Wolves the following day. The girls were looking for a win in their final game, after their 3-0 loss to the Ooks that ended their chance of getting a national medal for the first time ever.

The women entered the championship undefeated throughout the entire regular season and the OCAA championships with a record of 15-0-0, and coming into their final game of the year against GPRC, they boasted 1-2 national record. Their lone win being against the Wolves in the opening day of the tournament.

Since the start of the 2011 season, Algonquin holds a combined record of 66-4-4. Not including nationals.

Their wish came true with a 1-0 win versus the Wolves on the final day of the CCAA championships with Algonquin’s lone goal of the tournament, and Haley Martin’s first goal of the entire season, on a well-placed corner kick that ricocheted off a GPRC defender.

Dom Oliveri, the head coach of the women’s soccer team at Algonquin, knew it was important for them to cap off the season with a win.

“When stuff doesn’t go your way like it did yesterday, you have two choices,” said Oliveri. “You can either sulk about it, or you can get beyond it, and that’s what we [the coaching staff] told the players. But how you react to life’s circumstances defines your character, [it] defines you as a human being, and all we wanted today was to have a bounce back game.”

Their goal scoring ability in the championship hindered them greatly, and a reason for this may be that their top-goal scorer, Vanessa Macmillan (26), was forced to play a maximum of 45 minutes per game while recovering from a concussion suffered against the Humber Hawks in the OCAA finals.

In the tournament, she started the second-half only. That is, until their second game against the Wolves. Oliveri said he gave her the choice of which half she would like to start in.

“I kind of just wanted to go through the motions one last time,” said Macmillan. “The warmup, and being on the starting lineup at the beginning of the game, and just start in the game.”

Macmillan, along with a few of their top players, will not be returning the next season.

Second-year midfielder Becky Leese explained just how lucky they are to be able to end their season the way they did.

“The win meant a lot to us because not too many teams have the opportunity to end their season on a win,” said Leese. “So we took that opportunity, especially with our fifth years leaving, and we wanted to win for them, and play our hearts out for them.”

Melissa Harrison, who is a fifth-year veteran, wasn’t allowed to play in her final game with the Thunder after receiving a red card on a questionable take down of a NAIT defender in the second half of their game on Nov. 11. She was forced to sit in the stands and watch the game as a spectator.

“It was hard [not being able to play], but yesterday was hard too,” said Harrison. “But I knew I had to be there for my team, I was happy to watch.”

A day prior, the Thunder played the Ooks in a game that would send one of them to battle for a CCAA bronze medal, but on paper, the Thunder couldn’t muster up enough offence to keep themselves in the game. Algonquin had two goals called off due to offsides, which Oliveri felt were not good calls.

“Look we’re not generally the ones to complain about the referees. We try to make sure that they are not able to have an impact on the game but today was just not good enough for the centre referee,” explained Oliveri. “To be fair to her, we’ve had her multiple times and she has been very good, but today she didn’t have a good day.”

“The two goals that were called back on us, that were clearly onside, and the PK [penalty kick] that they had at the end for their third goal was very weak.”

He believes that the way the game was called wasn’t fair to the players. “How do you walk into a room of 25 players and say ‘Oh, your season came down to a game where you were trying to win a medal, and the biggest person who had an impact on the field was a referee,’” Oliveri said.

The loss against NAIT came just a day after being defeated by the Garneau Elks
1-0, who won the gold medal for the third time in a row in the championship.
The Thunder opened the championship with a game that was decided by penalty
kicks and a win against GPRC.

The women’s soccer team hopes to bounce back next season to another CCAA
championship, and according to Oliveri, the end result of every season is to
leave behind a legacy for the upcoming players.