The McGill Martlets (1-2) bounced back from a disappointing first weekend of RSEQ action with a victory over the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes (0-3) on Friday night. The Martlets swept the Patriotes in season play last year, and will play them once more on Oct. 20.
The Martlets frontline was sharp for the entire first half, with passes that made it behind flat-footed Patriotes defenders. The key to their offensive attacks came from persistence in pushing the ball up the sideline. By doing so, the Martlets were able to spread out the visitors over the entire width of the field. The hosts took advantage of their opponents with a patient playing style which led to accurate passes.
Consequently, the Martlets managed to keep the Patriotes entrenched in the visitors’ own defensive end. Despite enjoying ball possession for most of the game, McGill was confronted by a resilient UQTR squad led by their star defender, Pascale Lapointe, who was able to deny Martlet attacks on multiple occasions. The Patriotes’ defensive game-plan was clear: impose their physicality on the hosts. However, their aggressive disposition resulted in a yellow card at the 33rd minute to UQTR defender Marie-Gaelle Grenier.
McGill goalkeeper Victoria Muccilli tallied four saves en route to a shutout, and was vital to the Martlet defence as both a stopper and a release valve. Muccilli was called upon frequently to rotate the ball and lead attacks from the back as McGill attempted to maintain possession.
Martlet Head Coach Jose-Luis Valdes was frustrated with his team’s sluggish performance at the start of the game. “[The] first half was difficult, and we made it difficult on ourselves,” he said.
Both teams came out of the half-time huddle with a greater sense of urgency. As the clock ticked away, the Martlets began to find more and more cracks in the Patriotes’ defensive scheme. However, the problem in the second stanza was an inability to hit the target. McGill had nine shots in the second half but six of those failed to be directed on goal.
Junior attacker Meaghan Borque was finally able to break through as she converted on a corner kick by fellow defender Kelsey Wilson. In nerve-wracking fashion that mirrored the rest of the game, the Martlets were forced to hold their breath as the shot redirected off of a Patriotes player and made it past UQTR keeper Garbrielle Lamer in the 77th minute.
The victory was a clear sigh of relief for the McGill players as they clinched their first win of the season. Although the team’s performance was above average, they did just enough to secure the three points.
“[The] second half was better,” said Valdes. “The tempo of the game was better. We got into a flow. We played quicker and faster. It was a win.”
McGill followed up its first victory with a dominant showing against the Concordia Stingers this past Sunday. The Martlets exploded for three consecutive goals in the second half, en route to a 3-1 victory.
Valdes has now acquired his first two wins as Head Coach of the Martlets, and hopes to build momentum from this match to set the tone for the season. Meanwhile, McGill will continue on its journey to reach the RSEQ playoffs. They play the Bishop’s Gaiters (2-2) in Lennoxville on Sept. 20 in what will be a critical match for both teams.