Women's Soccer: Canada West and AUS Playoffs on the way

This weekend, upsets are firmly out of fashion. They'll probably still happen, but at least this weekend's playoff match-ups in AUS and Canada West women's soccer have relatively clear-cut winners.

We'll start in Canada West.

Somehow, Trinity Western always end up looking the favourites. They started well enough against the easier teams, but when faced with tougher opposition they sputtered badly. They've turned it back on again lately, and betting against this team is foolish.

Alberta come into playoffs deservedly on top but struggling badly down the stretch. If they manage to meet the Spartans in the final, it'll make for an interesting clash of teams heading in different directions.

That game might not happen at all if UFV and UBC have anything to say about it. UBC, especially, have some talent and could do some damage to Alberta.

Now that all the bases are covered, a quick look at the main matches from Edmonton this weekend:

(1) Alberta v. (4) UBC: Alberta will have home turf this weekend, which will give them something of an advantage. More worrisome for the Pandas is that they lost 2 - 0 to UBC last weekend. The Thunderbirds have momentum coming in and Alberta are in something of a slump--they haven't won since Oct. 23. If Janine Frazao can create for Lisa Furutani, this could be an easy upset.

(2) Trinity Western v. (3) UFV: UFV are having a great season and they're pretty excited about it. That doesn't change the fact that they're a team lacking in playoff experience coming up against arguably the most successful women's soccer program in the country. TWU are a team with weapons, both defensive and offensive. Espeically offensive. If the Cascades shut down Alicia Tesan, Daniela Gerig or Nikki Wright can score. The Spartans' defence has routinely proven itself nationally. Everyone would love to see UFV win, I'm sure. They likely won't.

Now on to AUS.

I'm based in Halifax, so natually I know the Atlantic teams a little better. While the region is often forgotten about, there will be some dangerous teams coming out of it this year.

The playoffs begin at Acadia University in Wolfville on Friday, so here's a breakdown of the matches:

Saint Mary's (4-5-4) v. St. Francis Xavier (6-5-2): This is likely to be the most unpredictable game of the weekend. Both teams are capable of winning. St. FX won the game between them last weekend, but only 1 - 0 and it could have gone either way. Neither team has a great deal of skill and expect a lot of hard work and running. And probably plenty of aimless long balls, too. SMU have my gut feeling on this one, just becasue St. FX goalkeeper Anna Thompson can be rather howler-prone and one mistake could make this game. 

Cape Breton (8-3-2) v. Acadia (2-7-4) : If Acadia can keep the score respectable it'll be a huge success for a program that is returning to the playoffs for the fiirst time in a good long while, although only as host. The hiring of Amit Batra as head coach will really help the program in the future. The playoff game will help the Axewomen gain experience, but it'll be one and out for them this year.

UPEI Panthers (10-0-3): The Panthers went undefeated this season. Last year, they relied heavily on Tessa Roche for goal scoring. This year, the addition of rookie Ali Goodman has helped up front and Chelsie McInnis is scoring. It's still a bit of a no-name, hard-working team, but they have some talent this year and should advance to the finals with a legitimate shot at the AUS banner.

Dalhousie Tigers (10-1-2): A worrying final weekend that saw the then-undefeated Tigers lose to the then-winless Memorial Seahawks has created some doubt around the Tigers' ability to perform this weekend. The loss also cost them the top seed, meaning they'll need to face Cape Breton to make the finals. That could be a very tricky fixture for an otherwise skilled Tigers group. Dal beat Cape Breton 2-0 this year and could probably repeat the result on their best form. There is, however, the distinct smell of an upset, here.

The final, whether Cape Breton or Dalhousie meet UPEI, should be a good match-up. UPEI are hosting nationals, so if the Panthers make the finals as they should, the runner-up will also qualify. If St. FX or Saint Mary's cause the upset, only the banner-winner will make the trip to PEI.

And a brief word on the OUA:

McMaster head to Queen's on Saturday to play the Gaels, who had some difficulty getting by Nipissing, but eventually beat them 2 - 1 in extra time, thanks to Jacqueline Tessier. Queen's should handle McMaster at home quite easily. The Marauders' Tara Dawdy scored the only goal in the McMaster win over Windsor.

Ottawa and Laurier will meet to determine the other OUA representative in PEI. It should be a much closer game, with both teams barely making it past Laurentian and Western, respectively. Ottawa's Gillian Baggott scored a gritty, arguably controversial goal in the 80th minute before Ottawa won the game in penalties. Laurier also got a second-half equalizer from Tania Pedron to force penalties, which the Golden Hawks won.
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