Guelph Gryphons get perfect start to field hockey season

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH — They’re young, rebuilding and happy following their opening weekend of play.

The Guelph Gryphons swept all three of their games at the regular-season OUA women’s field hockey mini-tournament they hosted at Varsity Field.

“Opening weekend, nine points,” Gryphon coach Michelle Turley said. “We’re really excited to have the nine points because we’re in a rebuilding year. We have six rookies on a roster of 18 so we’re really pleased with how it’s going.”

The Gryphs defeated the Waterloo Warriors 7-1 Saturday before edging the Queen’s Gaels 4-3 and dropping the Western Mustangs 6-1 Sunday.

“(Saturday) we won 7-1 easily,” Turley said. “Obviously I don’t like getting scored against, especially when you (score) seven. (Sunday) we won by five and I don’t like to have any against.”

The slim win over Queen’s might have been the most pleasing of the three victories as the young Gryphs showed poise and maturity.

“We had about three good opportunities that we didn’t put away in the first seven minutes,” Turley said. “Had we done that, it would have been a different game. But we didn’t put those away and they ended up going down and scoring on us, so now we’re coming from behind. But for having that many rookies on our squad, I’ve seen more experienced teams start to get stressed out and flustered with the fact that we’re not scoring. The calmness and the collectiveness of a young team, I was quite impressed with. We came back and they scored another one. The game ended up being 4-3 and in the end the win is what matters.”

However, the Gryphs were a little concerned after their win over Western.

“We’re playing simple hockey and we’re making it really simple because you just have to do the basic stuff and make the easy passes,” Turley said. “We tended to get away from that plan a little bit, but we came back to it.”

After scoring three times in the first 11 minutes, the Gryphs backed off a little. However, substitutions during the game might have played a role in that.

“We’re working on our rotations and everything,” Turley said. “Our midfielders are constantly rotating and our forwards are just learning. We’ve obviously lost Ally Chute, so Olivia Lane is taking a leadership role in that area, taking leadership of all of the rookies, cycling them around and rotating.”

Guelph native Lane had a big scoring output with five goals against Western. Rudi Ballard scored the other one and Lindsay Borrell had the lone goal for Western.

“What she’s being doing a really good job of is off-ball running to get open,” Turley said of Lane. “She’s creating a lot of opportunities for everybody else. She hasn’t scored a ton until (Sunday) and then she scored five herself. In the (Sunday morning) game there was a couple of opportunities where I said ‘You actually need to be selfish.’ A goal scorer has to be selfish on occasion.”

Katherine MacMillan scored twice against Queen’s while Lane and Kayla Magarelli added one goal apiece. Sophie Bombara, Ciara Morrison and Taylor Herrington netted single goals for the Gaels.

Lane and Melissa Vogl scored twice each against Waterloo while Rebecca Plouffe, MacMillan and Olivia Finch added one goal apiece. Grace Shimokura scored for Waterloo.

“I think we’re a goal-scoring team and I know what the other teams fear about us is the fact we can score, and we have depth in scoring,” Turley said.

Following the weekend with all of the league’s games having been played at Varsity Field, the Gryphons top the standings at 3-0-0 while the Toronto Varsity Blues are at 2-0-0. Waterloo is next at 1-1-1 and are followed by the York Lions at 1-1-0, Western at 0-2-1, the idle McGill Redmen and Queen’s at 0-3-0.

The games were the first for the Gryphs since a pre-season trip to Buenos Aires. When you’re in a rebuilding year, why would you want to go to Argentina?”

“All the more reason to go because we could go in an exhibition tournament,” Turley said. “McGill usually hosts one and we could go to that exhibition tournament before your season, but you’re going to play against a lot of the same teams you play against here. I don’t really want the other teams to see us in the pre-season. We see them enough as it is.”

The trip gave the Gryphs a chance for some quick bonding and it also gave them an opportunity to play some defensive field hockey. They don’t get much opportunity to do that In the OUA and it usually catches up with them at the CIS national tournament.

At the Buenos Aires tournament, the Gryphs competed in the open category. It consisted of seven 16-team divisions. As anticipated, the Gryphs didn’t have much success on the field.

“We need to play people that are better than us so that’s what I did. I wanted to play Argentina,” Turley said. “It was anticipated that we were going to lose by anywhere from six to 10.”

The Gryphs lost by nine to the team ranked third in Argentina”

“They start playing when they’re five and six years old,” Turley said. “Some of the kids we played against have played in the Olympics.”

However, the trip was a success in terms of team bonding.

“They honestly gelled really well. This year we were in double rooms,” Turley said. “The way I designed it, I hooked up a senior player with a rookie. Obviously there were a few more vets than rookies, but based on their personalities, knowing what I knew about them, I matched them.”

Many of the rookies complimented Turley on the job she did pairing them with veterans who had similar personalities.

The Gryphs will have a pair of games next weekend when the Varsity Blues host the league. Guelph is to play Toronto Saturday at 9 a.m. and McGill Sunday at 2:15 p.m. at the U of T’s Back Campus fields.