Soccer, Sports

McGill Soccer squads open their seasons to an energetic home crowd

On Aug. 31, both the Martlets (1–1) and the Redbirds (0–1) began their RSEQ campaigns against the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) at McGill’s Percival Molson Stadium. In front of a rowdy home crowd, the Martlets fell 2-1 while the Redbirds earned a point in a 1-1 tie. 

The Martlets took the field first. In a physical game, they conceded two early goals that silenced the crowd. The team, however, was still determined and kept pressing hard, stringing together nice pass sequences in the midfield and receiving their reward in the 18th minute. Elisabeth Pronovost, a first-year midfielder from Chambly, Quebec, closed the gap on UQAM in her first game as a Martlet. Pronovost’s goal was the last of the half as the whistle sounded and the teams regrouped. 

“My energy comes from losing or being the underdog, so of course when the team scores two goals, I just want to make one in, then two, three,” Pronovost said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “I love my team and am really looking forward to having a great season with these girls.”

In the second half, the Martlets found success in centrefield, with many scoring chances by first-year Chloe Renaud, but were unable to translate it into points. As the game continued, tempers flared between the Martlets and the Citadins, resulting in three yellow cards in the 90th minute—two to UQAM and one to McGill’s Renaud. 

In a post-game interview, Stephanie Hill, a third-year physical therapy student who anchors the Martlets’ backline, spoke about taking on more of a leadership role within the team this season.

“I hope to encourage and guide [the new players] during the season and help them keep their confidence up,” said Hill.

Afterward, it was the Redbirds’ turn to step onto the field. Even as the rain started coming down, the crowd grew and was electrified during the team’s introduction. Jean-Marc Yao, a senior midfielder, got the home crowd going with an early goal in the 10th minute after a pretty ball from Pedro Gulli, a freshman forward who previously laced up for John Abbott College. In the 12th minute, UQAM’s Patrick Denis was given a red card for a dangerous and reckless foul on third-year transfer midfielder Yosr Frej. Frej, who hails from Rabat, Morocco, had to momentarily leave the game to get his head patched up. The Redbirds played the remainder of the time against a 10-man Citadins squad. 

It was a 20th-minute penalty kick that determined the final score. While it was nearly saved by keeper Ludovyck Ciociola, a first-year management student, his valiant effort wasn’t enough to keep the ball out. Ciociola later kept the score even with a brilliant punch save on a dangerous UQAM shot. 

The Redbirds strung together solid attempts on the wings, sending their opponents scrambling in the second half. A bandaged Frej played with great determination and heart in the midfield, yet the Redbirds failed to find the net again.

After the whistle blew, Ciociola spoke with the Tribune about the team’s takeaways following their first game. 

“I feel like we gave too much at the start and weren’t able to hold pace, but it’s the first game and everyone had a bit of nerves to shake out,” Ludovyck conceded. “Offensively, we were missing the last touch before the net.”

Bilal Bouchemella, second-year computer science major who wore the captain band this game, expressed his excitement about the upcoming season.

“The game was a solid opener but could have been improved by a little more offensive effort,” Bouchemella said, echoing his teammate. “Last year, I helped my teammates but I was a little younger. This year I’ve come in with the idea of being engaged with the team the best I can. I’m satisfied with the team, and the confidence we have.”

Catch the Martlets and Redbirds back at home for another double-header on Sept. 16 against Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively.

*The interviews were translated from French by the author.

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