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Onward and upward

womens soccer coverBefore the season started, UNB Varsity Reds women’s soccer head coach Jon Crossland said he wanted his team to contend for an Atlantic University Sport championship.

Two months later, his team will be doing just that.

Not only have the Varsity Reds clinched a spot in this year’s playoffs, but they’ll be the No. 1 seed after winning the AUS regular season for the first time in history.

“To get rewarded you have to put a lot of work in and the girls have done that over the last two or three years,” said Crossland after his team’s final regular season game on Friday.

“We’ve had the same core group together for the last three years and there are eight of them who are going to graduate and potentially move on here, so it’s awesome for them to have the opportunity to finish first and be one of the best women’s teams in UNB’s soccer history.”

The coach said the biggest difference between this year’s team and ones in the past is age and experience.

“We weren’t far away from being a playoff team the last two years. They were really committed. They worked hard in the summer and from day one when they came back they were really motivated and we made it clear that we wanted to compete for an AUS championship,” he said.

“That was our goal — to be in the AUS playoffs and to be an AUS champion. That’s charted the course for this season and they have not let up since then.”

To say it’s been a remarkable season for the team would be an understatement. They finished the regular season with a 10-1-2 record, matching their win total of the previous three seasons combined. And the team’s journey isn’t over.

“We’re not done,” said Crossland. “We’ve got another big weekend so we’re going to keep this going as long as we can.”

After clinching first place last Wednesday with a 3-2 victory over the Mount Allison Mounties, UNB will have a bye through the first round of the AUS Championship, which takes place Oct. 31 – Nov. 1 at Dalhousie University. The Varsity Reds will play the lowest seeded team remaining in Saturday’s semifinal. The championship game will take place on Sunday.

“It’s nice,” Crossland said about having a bye. “We’ve got a couple girls who are banged up right now and it gives them an extra day to rest, recover and get treatment. It’ll be good.”

The winner of the AUS Championships will advance to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s soccer nationals in Quebec City from Nov. 6 – 9.

The Varsity Reds wrapped up their regular season schedule with a 4-2 victory over the Saint Mary’s Huskies on a chilly and rainy night at BMO Centre on Friday.

Sam Lagacy scored twice for UNB while Kayla Painter and Courtney Strba added singles. Lindsay Millett and Sophie Langille responded with goals for Saint Mary’s.

Meggie Spicer had UNB’s first good chance of the game as the ball was put ahead to her by Lagacy in the 22nd minute. Huskies goalkeeper Jackie Blank — a former Varsity Red — was sharp in net and stopped the hard shot with her hands.

The Reds took a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute as Lagacy fought off two Saint Mary’s defenders and chipped the ball over Blank.

Lagacy then netted her second of the match in the 42nd minute. Erin Bethune took the corner kick and got the ball into the box, allowing Lagacy to head it in.

Late in the half, Lagacy created another good chance as she came down the wing, went around Blank and sent the ball to the top of the box. Lauren Cubbon got there but had her shot blocked.

Shots in the first half were 3-0 in favour of the Varsity Reds.

In the 54th minute, Painter put in a rebound to give UNB a 3-0 lead.

Saint Mary’s finally recorded their first shot of the contest about 15 minutes into the half and forced Reds goalkeeper Rebecca Duda to make a nice save.

The Varsity Reds took a 4-0 lead in the 62nd minute. Painter had a free kick and fired into the box, allowing Strba to put the ball in and extend UNB’s lead.

Soon after Strba’s goal, Brittany Carroll replaced Duda in the UNB net. Carroll was put to the test quickly as Saint Mary’s got on the board in the 74th minute when Millett scored.

Just over five minutes later, the Huskies got within two as Sophie Langille put a header in. But that goal would the last the Huskies would score thanks to some nice saves from Carroll.

Shots were 7-2 in favour of the Huskies in the second half.

The loss didn’t mean much for Saint Mary’s as they had already been eliminated from the playoff race. They finished the regular season with a 1-10-2 record.

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