Queen’s Golden Gaels begin play Thursday as the No. 3 seed at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s soccer championship tournament in Vancouver.
The Gaels begin the quest for their first national title since 2011 against the sixth-seeded Sherbrooke vert et or, the Quebec conference runner-up, Thursday at 7:30 p.m. EST.
Laval rouge et or is the top seed in the eight-team tournament. The defending national champion, Laval goes to Vancouver on a 33-game undefeated streak, a stretch that includes a 12-0-2 record during the regular Quebec conference season, and a 5-1 win over Sherbrooke in the league championship.
Other teams at the four-day event are:
• the second-seeded British Columbia Thunderbirds, the Canada West champions;
• No. 4 Cape Breton Capers, the Atlantic conference champions;
• No. 5 Trinity Western Spartans, the Canada West finalists;
• No. 7 Calgary Dinos, the Canada West bronze medalists;
• eighth-seeded Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, the Ontario finalists.
Queen’s captured the Ontario University Athletics title Sunday in Ottawa, defeating Laurier 1-0 in the gold-medal match. It was the Gaels’ first conference championship since 2011, but their fourth in the last 14 years.
A terrific playoff run—four straight victories, all on the road—propelled Queen’s to the tournament. No team at the championship finished lower during the regular year than the Gaels, who were fifth in the East division of the OUA. At no point this season was Queen’s ranked among the country’s Top 10 teams.
Queen’s goes to Vancouver with an 11-2-7 record in league and playoff competition, however. It’s a record coach Dave McDowell attributes to the team’s collective defensive performance, particularly in the post-season, when the Gaels allowed just two goals in four games, two of which went into overtime.
“Our team defending throughout the playoffs was fantastic,” said McDowell, in his 28th year as Gaels coach.
The Gaels take a 12-game undefeated streak with them to B.C. In their last 13 regular-season games, they allowed just five goals—never more than one in a game—and posted eight shutouts.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” McDowell said. “To emerge as champions from a Final Four tournament with the quality that was on display is tremendous. We are really excited to be back after a couple of years off, and all with a relatively young team.”
All but one of the national-championship schools from the last 13 years is in this year’s tournament. In addition to Laval and Queen’s, Trinity Western has won five of those national titles, and four of the last seven—including 2012, when the Spartans defeated Queen’s in a shootout in the gold-medal match. Cape Breton last won in 2007 and UBC won back-to-back titles in 2002-03.
Queen’s has won the national championship three times, first in 1988, then back-to-back in 2010 and 2011. The Gaels have an overall 16-13-4 mark at the tournament, and have won a medal six times, with two silver and a bronze to go with the gold.
Fifth-year midfielder Jessie de Boer is the only Queen’s player who was named to this year’s conference first all-star team. Defender Micah Vermeer, midfielder Lidia Bradau and rookie striker Jenny Wolever were all named to the East division’s second all-star team.
The tournament is a bit of a homecoming for six Gaels. De Boer, who led Queen’s with eight goals in the regular season, is from North Vancouver, defender Kyra Steer comes from South Surrey, B.C.; goalkeeper Madison Tyrell is from White Rock, B.C.; forward Tara Bartram is from Vancouver, and goalkeeper Michaila Frawley and first-year forward Claudia Wheeler are both from Victoria.
Bartram, a five-goal scorer during the regular year, has three goals in the playoffs, including an overtime winner in the first round against Toronto and the only goal of the conference gold-medal victory over Laurier.