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Laurier set to host OUA WLAX Championship
Golden Hawks enter championship as defending bronze medalist for three-day event at Woodside Park

Thursday, October 19, 2017 - Posted by Jamie Howieson

Women’s lacrosse teams from 10 Ontario universities will be battling it out for the Patterson Cup, as Wilfrid Laurier University will play host to the 2017 OUA Championships. The field will boast the likes of perennial powerhouse Western, regular season success story Queen’s, and 2016 champions Trent, who along with the rest of the field, will be looking to end their OUA season on a golden note.

With just one blemish on their record, the Western Mustangs will be looking to translate their regular season success into continued success in the postseason, entering as the top seed in the West. After being edged out by Laurier in their third match, the powerful purple have been able to reel of 10 straight wins. One of the main reasons they’ve been able to achieve this elite level of success is thanks to their play in net. Goalkeeper Claire Palmer has been a consistent presence in the crucial position, frequently keeping the opposition to under five goals per game and helping lead the Mustangs to a league-best 55 goals against.

Western is able to do more than just keep the opposition at bay; however, as the team is also the highest scoring in the OUA. Much of this offensive dominance comes from 2016 First-Team All-Star Kay De Snoo, who has managed another high-quality year.  Among the many highlights for De Snoo was her three-game stretch just a couple weekends ago, wherein she collected 13 goals and 12 assists.

One of the most intriguing matches on day one will pit the Excalibur against the Golden Hawks, who were separated by just one game in the regular season (albeit in different divisions). Coming in with a 17-point regular season, the Excalibur will look to turn their middle-of-the-pack regular season into postseason triumph. Trent was able to score with the best of them this season, tallying 173 goals on the campaign, while keeping their goals against to double digits (97). Two of the major contributors to this success are 2nd year Leah Michel and rookie MacKenzie Robinson.

Michel, the 2016 OUA Rookie of the Year, has accounted for more than 25% of the teams goals this season, while averaging over five points per game. Her creativity around the net and high precision shot has led to great success on the field, something she is able to do despite suffering from a spinal stroke and losing all feeling in her left leg just a couple years ago. Along with Michel’s skill and leadership, Robinson has also brought some key assets to the squad. After transferring from Algoma University, the former basketball player uses her height and skill from the court to be a force both offensively (3.4 PPG) and defensively.

Laurier’s similarly strong regular season (9-3-1), meanwhile, will put them in a position to succeed at this weekend’s championship as well. If they want to move toward a title, the Golden Hawks will need to maintain their scrappy style of play. They are accurate with their shots, determined in their battle for possession, and smooth in their ground balls won.

Some of the leaders in this regard are attacker Rose Williams, who has tallied 22 goals on 29 shots this season, along with 7 GP turnovers, 16 draws won, and 18 GB won; defensive midfielder Sierra Nunno, who is one of the best when it comes to gained possession turnovers (19); and midfielder Abby Clayton, who collected 23 goals, 10 GP turnovers, and 11 ground balls won.   

Not only will the Golden Hawks be a force up front, but also in net, as they boast one of the province’s best goalkeepers in Alanna MacDonald. With a save percentage of 48% and clear percentage of 77%, MacDonald consistently gives her team a chance to win, something evidenced in Laurier’s stingy 86 goals against.   

Throughout the regular season, Brock claimed their spot in the middle of the pack. The Badgers, aside from a four game win streak, were unable to find great consistency during the year, and turned their up and down results into a 7-6 record. Not only did the team hover around the .500 mark for the year, but they nearly broke even in goal differential (+2) as well.

Even within their matches, the Badgers had a number of back and forth affairs, but were able to admirably compete against the province’s many capable combatants. Emma Mete was a consistent source of productivity therein, but the team also saw meaningful contributions from Shania Porter, Eryn Brown, and Victoria Halliday, among several others. The club’s first opponent of the weekend is the team against whom they closed out their regular season (12-8 L) – the Toronto Varsity Blues.

Toronto (8-2-3) will be looking to cash in on their medal aspirations this weekend, and will come into the championship festivities on a five-match winning streak. Not only will the Varsity Blues be relying on their late season momentum, but also on their veteran-laden roster. With 10 players in their 4th year or higher, the team can capitalize on experience to help lead the charge.

Two such veterans are the dynamic 5th year scoring duo of Sarah Jamieson and Melissa Holland. Both have received OUA All-Star nods in previous seasons and both have played significant roles for Toronto once again this year, thanks to a combined 59 goals from the pair (Jamieson – 33; Holland – 26). Lending a helping hand to the team’s leading scorers will also be midfielders Sarah Morgan, who was U of T’s leader in assists (15) en route to a total of 33 points, and Geneva Calder, a faceoff specialist who is a key cog in the team’s transition play.

On the defensive end, meanwhile, the Blues will rely on goalkeeper Daniela Solomon, who has been a constant between the pipes all season long. Also playing key roles in the team’s back line of defense, thanks to their speed and hustle, will be June Shiraishi and Marie Mutware, ultimately rounding out what should be a very potent Toronto squad.

Before these games hit the field, the Marauders will open their championship quest against UOIT. McMaster (2-10-1), despite collecting just five points in their 13 games played this season, will enter the championship with a number of players to watch across all facets of the game. The addition of rookie attacker Sophie Skillen has provided an exciting offensive spark; the veteran presence of 5th year midfielder Jenny Lemon has established noteworthy leadership on the field; and 3rd year goalie Sabrina Schindel offers a steady presence between the pipes. With this trio intact, the maroon machine will be one to watch this weekend.

Despite winning two of their first five games, the Ridgebacks ended their season by losing eight straight. The team tied for a league-worst 188 goals against, while ranking only slightly higher in goals for (57). For the Oshawa-based school to find success this weekend, they’ll need to turn to regular season standouts Holly Collins, Elyse Lockhart, and Julia Vinkovic, but it will certainly be a tall task for the squad to reverse their regular season fortunes.

The two victories that the Ridgebacks were able to secure this season came against the York Lions, who found themselves in an even tougher spot than UOIT. The Lions were ultimately left winless on the campaign. But while the club may not have championship aspirations on their mind, there will undoubtedly be an opportunity to gain experience and build on their -156 goal differential from the regular season; something they’ll look to do in their opening match against the Guelph Gryphons.

Despite collecting just three wins this season, the Gryphons are coming into the championships on a high note after sweeping the regular season’s final weekend. According to their coach, Staci Morris, the team is excited heading into the championship and will be looking to build on the strides they took in the regular season to pull off an upset or two this weekend.

A few key players looking to help turn these upset aspirations into reality are midfielder Susanna Coss, who is a fast, hard-working player that can dominate the midfield transition; goalkeeper Shayla Larson, who is both a leader and positive influence on the field, proving to be someone the team can depend on in all situations; and rookie attacker Teagan Raney, who came storming onto the OUA season as one of the top goal scorers this year.

Coming off of a 5th place finish at the 2016 OUA Championships, the Queen’s Gaels will be looking to find the podium this time around, and their regular season play suggests they can do just that. The Gaels used a nine game midseason win streak to catapult them to the second best record in the province, and did so in convincing fashion. The team trails only the first place Mustangs in goal differential on the year, scoring 160 and surrendering just 69. It will be imperative to institute a similarly balanced all-around effort this weekend if they want to improve on their 2016 result, and they will await the winner of the Guelph v. York match to start their trek.

The weekend’s action will kick off on Friday, October 20 at 12:00pm and will come to a close on Sunday, October 22 with the Bronze Medal game (12:00 pm) and Gold Medal game (1:30 pm), respectively.

Following the conclusion of the gold medal game, gold and silver medals will be presented along with OUA First-Team and Second-Team All-Stars and major award winners. Bronze medals will be distributed following the bronze medal game.

For more information on the event, check out the 2017 Lacrosse Championship Fan Guide.

- courtesy of the OUA


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