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Gryphons, cool conditions, can't slow down Marauders

Monday, October 2, 2006

Written by Stephen Sweet

On a rainy and windy Saturday afternoon in the Royal City, the Guelph Gryphons women’s soccer team came up short in their match, dropping a 1-0 decision to the McMaster Marauders. The lone goal of the match was scored in the 44th minute by Samantha Batten, for her team-leading seventh goal of the season. After a botched throw-in by the Gryphons, Daniela Lafratta intercepted a loose ball and dribbled in up the right side. She slid it over to Andrea Dunn, who in turn passed it to Batten, who caught the Gryphon defender and goalkeeper out of position as she shot the ball into the net.

While the scoreboard showed a 1-0 loss, it did not reflect poorly on the Gryphons, who played a good team game. Initially, they played more of a defensive system, preferring to try long passes to send strikers Natalie Ackerman and Jordan Vanden dool on offensive breaks. While it didn’t produce much offensively, it did allow for some strong defensive play. Several players, including third-year defender Karin Schroeter, were instrumental in holding the Marauders at bay for most of the opening half. Goalkeeper Danielle Beck recovered from a shaky start and got better as the game went on, making some moderately difficult saves as the match progressed into the second half.

After the Batten goal for McMaster, the Gryphons shifted to a more offensive style of play. Players began to push up field when the ball was cleared out of their zone and at long last the Gryphon women started to get some scoring chances. Melissa Hyland set up Ackerman in front of the net but she couldn’t capitalize. Not long after, a slick give and go between Kelsey McDougall and Emma Al-Haydari created a shot on goal that McMaster goalkeeper Amy Holt could only knock aside. Hyland picked up the rebound but unfortunately put it wide.

There were a few reasons behind their scoring chances. For starters, there was a strong wind blowing from south to north for the entire game. Once the Gryphons started heading into the wind to start the second half, they started to abandon their long ball strategy in favour of more ball possession, and moving up the field with crisp and precise passes. When they did go for the long passes, they began to pass to the corners of the field rather than up the middle. Often, the defenders will converge at the middle of the field, since that is the most dangerous area for your opponents to have the ball. By having the ball near the sides of the field, the forwards will encounter less defenders, as the Marauders players had to spread themselves out. It was certainly a good strategy; in fact, that was how McMaster managed to score their goal. Lastly, there was a natural switch in the flow of the game, as the Marauders began to focus more on holding onto their one-goal lead in the inclement conditions, which allowed the Gryphons to open up more offensively.

The Gryphons’ offensive woes nearly came to an end on two separate occasions late in the match. A smart play through the midfield by Natalie Downey with just over 3 minutes remaining allowed substitute Elizabeth Duncan-Brown to break in alone, but she put the ball over the net. Finally, as a last gasp, the Gryphons sent up a dangerous rush with under two minutes left in the game. Hyland broke in past the defender on the right wing before passing across into the middle, where Schroeter initially fanned on it. She and Downey worked together to recover the ball within 15 feet of the net. Those two, along with Hyland, took several kicks at the loose ball before McMaster’s keeper Amy Holt managed to grab the ball. Even with Guelph’s three best players on the day in the goal area, it wasn’t quite enough to get a point in this game.

As a result, the Marauders remain undefeated with a record of 5-0-4, and the Gryphon women drop to 1-8. Their next game is Sunday, again at Alumni Stadium, against Brock. If they can take one thing from this game, it is that they hung in with the best team in their conference in a game that could have gone either way. Hopefully, this will give them the confidence they need to be able to turn things around, as they could use a little bit of that right about now.
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