OUA women's soccer playoffs start today with four preliminary round games. They'll determine who gets to be knocked out by Queen's in the quarterfinals, among other things.
The matchups aren't exactly tantalizing. 0 – 0 may be a common scoreline by this evening. A bunch of OUA teams are limping into the playoffs pretty badly and it's hard to pick a team with significant momentum.
When momentum and stats say nothing (and going purely on a hunch seems like a bad idea in one's first post on The CIS Blog), it's always a good idea to turn to experience, if only because it's intangible. York and Queen's know what they're doing—that's why they've made nationals for the past two years, and that's why they're favourites to go again.
Without further ado, a look at the preliminary match-ups:
University of Toronto Varsity Blues (8-4-4) v. Nipissing Lakers (5-7-4): Nipissing take on University of Toronto in one of those stereotypical match-ups between a dangerous attack and a porous back-line. Both teams can score. Toronto can defend and that probably gives them an edge. Neither team are exactly on fire coming into the playoffs, but given they're playing at Varsity Field, Toronto should be comfortable advancing to the quarters.
York Lions (6-8-0) v. Western Mutangs (5-6-3): Western and York won't likely score—let's get that out of the way quickly. How exactly they decide to resolve a game without scoring remains to be seen. That alone might be reason to watch. Will it be a controversial offside call in the 86th minute? The ever-popular penalties? The stylish 118th-minute own-goal? Or will one team completely melt down and concede six? Option four seems the most interesting, but it won't likely happen. So we'll go with Courtney Stocks scoring the penalty winner. Although Sarah Fiorini took a pretty good knock on the weekend, so the own-goal might be plausible as well.
Windsor Lancers (5-4-5) v. Brock Badgers (4-6-4): Brock and Windsor probably won't score, either, but they still have some players from the 2008 CIS surprise team and they'll want another kick at the can. Either way, this has the potential to be a good 0 – 0. These are two experienced teams, and that alone should allow some skill to flourish. Larissa Bruzzese can score for Brock, taking over for Cassandre Van Bakel, who's had a forgettable one-goal season. Still, clutch performers and all that.
Carleton Ravens (7-6-3) v. Laurentian Voyageurs (6-5-5): Carleton lost to Queen's last year in the playoffs, which happens. Considering last year was a rocky one for Carleton, this could be a chance for them to redeem themselves a bit. Of course, if Toronto beat Nipissing, Carleton will run into Queen's again. Laurentian will surely want the chance to play Queen's, too, and might be able to take advantage of some horrendous Ravens form coming into playoffs (one home win over Nipissing in the last five games does not inspire confidence).
And now a look at the seeded quarterfinalists:
Queen's Golden Gaels (14-2-0): Queen's are the team with the easy path, although there's always that threat of playing a hot underdog. Other than that, the Gaels should be back at nationals easily enough. With Jacqueline Tessier and Kelli Chamberlain both having superb seasons, they should have no problem finding their way through the semis and onto a bus for PEI.
Laurier Golden Hawks (11-1-2): The Laurier Golden Hawks have a trickier path. They'll have to get through one of Brock, York or Western, all teams who could cause a talented Laurier team to slip.
Ottawa Gee-Gees (12-1-3): Barring some major upsets in the first round, the Ottawa Gee-Gees will run into either Toronto or Carleton, both of which make for tantalizing match-ups. Sadly, what makes for good entertainment might not make for good results for Gee-Gees fans—anything could happen in either game. They have the hardest path to the semifinals by far.
McMaster Marauders (8-4-2): McMaster are another one of the Western Conference teams who struggle mightily to score. McMaster are probably a good way for York to get to at least the semis. York are having a horrible year, but even then, the Lions are a team best avoided any day. McMaster may be hoping higher-seeded Windsor get past Brock—the Marauders have drawn and beaten the Lancers this year, and would fancy their chances to do it again.
Whoever does make it to PEI will face some decent opposition. Trinity Western have been off and on (mostly off) through the year, but have turned it on late. Alberta have also had a great season in Canada West. It's safe to assume Montreal will be back. Hosts UPEI are much-improved and could actually enter as AUS champions. Dalhousie will probably be the other team from AUS barring another playoff collapse.