On Aug. 30, following the first day of classes, the Martlets soccer team (2–0–0 ) kicked off their home opener and first game of the RSEQ season. With midfielder Mara Bouchard sporting the captains’ armband and the Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes (0–1–0 ) looking to put an end to a nine-game losing streak against McGill, Percival Molson Stadium was ready to go, despite the rainy weather.
The first half saw steady play from both UQTR and McGill, with the Martlets failing to solve the Patriotes’ netminder despite several opportunities.
However, as the rain began to lighten up and the Martlets stepped onto the field for the second half, early pressure from McGill led UQTR to turn the ball over, allowing midfielder Hana Yazdani to send the ball to midfielder Chloe Renaud for a beautiful behind-the-back pass that found forward Arianne Lavoie. With 49 minutes on the clock, Lavoie escaped the Patriotes’ defense and netted the breakaway pass from Renaud for a 1-0 lead.
As the game entered extra-time, pressure grew as McGill entered UQTR’s zone to try and extend their lead with forward Annika Schmunk just inches away from a goal with the Martlets’ final shot of the game. With a 1-0 final score, McGill took home the win, and goaltender Sophie Guilmette earned her first shutout of the season.
With the season opener in the rearview, the Martlets played their second game on Sept. 3, facing off against the Concordia Stingers (0–1–1) at home. This time, however, they took the pitch with a newfound confidence and in much better weather.
“The first game we were nervous,” head coach Jose-Luis Valdes told The Tribune. “It’s our first game at home. It’s the first game for a few players on the team. […] Whereas today, there were no nerves.”
At the 28-minute mark, midfielder Katherine Chadwick netted the opening goal to give the Martlets a 1-0 lead. Shortly thereafter, forward Liliane Lefebvre scored a graceful header off of a pass from Renaud to close out the first half and put the Martlets up 2-0.
After the half, Guilmette continued her strong performance from the season opener with a number of stellar saves to protect McGill’s lead. In the 75th minute, forward Alexandra Hughes-Goyette scored the Martlets’ third goal of the game, all but securing the win. However, the Stingers crushed hopes of another shutout performance, finding the back of the net with eight minutes of regular time remaining. In a 3-1 final score, the Martlets picked up their second win of the RSEQ regular season, and hope to carry on their success in their upcoming game against the Université de Montréal Carabins for their first game of the RSEQ season.
As for their early success, Bouchard attributes the two wins to the team’s ability to carry over what they learned from their preseason games.
“[During] the preseason, we worked a lot on just keeping the ball to feet, practicing our tilt, all going on the same side,” Bouchard explained. “I feel like both of the first two games we’ve been doing great at this. We did a good job and we’re solid defensively.”
Guilmette also emphasized the importance of getting points early on in the season.
“It was a team effort but I think a big part of what we need is to get those points, we have an objective to go to Nationals,” the netminder said. “These points against tougher opponents are really important early on in the season so that we can carry on towards the end of the season.”
The Martlets are back at home on Sunday, Sept. 10 against the Bishop’s Gaiters (1–1–0) for their Pride game.
Moment of the Game: In their game against the Patroites, following a rush from UQTR that almost tied the game in extra time, Schmunk went back the other way, nearly netting an insurance goal and swaying the momentum back in McGill’s favour.
Quotable: “On a more personal note, I was hoping for the shutout today, didn’t get it, unfortunately, but we got the dub, that’s what matters.”
– Goaltender, Sophie Guilmette
Stat Corner: Between the two games, McGill totalled 15 shots, 12 shots on net, 10 corner kicks, and 19 fouls.