Heading into Sunday’s championship final against the previously unbeaten Causeway team, the make-shift squad of MEC/Merchants knew they would have to play well defensively to pull off the upset and shutdown Causeway’s high-powered offensive.
In fact, while Causeway breezed through the round-robin trouncing the Dryden Selects 4-0 in their opening game Saturday and then shutting out Gillons’ 2-0, they really hadn’t been tested until they closed out with a 1-0 victory over MEC/Merchants on Sunday morning.
Causeway, which also leads the women’s Borderland standings, had outscored their opponents by a combined 7-0 score while MEC/Merchants managed just a 1-1 tie with Gillons’ and a 2-0 win over the Selects.
But it was MEC/Merchants which was the dominant team in the final, using their speed on the wings to create the majority of the game’s scoring opportunities, and keeping the offensive talents of Kristina Tolen and Caroline Spencer in check for most of the game.
MEC/Merchants scored the only goal they would need mid-way through the first half when Liz Leishman, who played brilliantly on the wing, scored on a crossover from Jodi Johnson. It was a goal that gave MEC/Merchants a big lift as they clamped down and played a solid defensive game the rest of the way, limiting Causeway’s chances and keeping what little opportunities they had to the perimeter.
“It feels good [to win],” said Johnson after the game. “We knew they were a strong team but we were working well [with our passing].” While MEC/Merchants controlled the ball up-field with their precision passing and ball movement, the key to the victory was clearly their defensive play.
“It was good that we beat [Causeway] and we were able to keep the momentum up against such a strong team,” added Leishman. “We were able to keep them to the outside and keep them to the perimeter.”
And that made the job much easier for goalkeeper Mary Montgomery. While Montgomery was flawless with the opportunities she had to handle, she wasn’t tested all that much.
Spencer, one of the more serious offensive threats for Causeway, said their club, which was battling the effects of heat stroke throughout the game (Christine Borden being the most serious casualty, collapsing on the field mid-way through the second half), simply had trouble executing, especially on corner kicks.
“We must have had everyone with a shot at corner [kicks] but we just couldn’t get our feet moving,” said Spencer.
“We just weren’t playing as good as we were before in the tournament,” added Caylee Brow. “They kept the ball for most of the game and they just played a faster style.”
For the tournament win, MEC/Merchants picked up a first-place prize which they decided to donate a large portion to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Gillons’ took home third place, with Dryden Selects forced to forfeit its final game due to a lack of players.