Gryphon field hockey women claim first in West
GUELPH – The Guelph Gryphons sent a message to the other OUA women’s field hockey teams Sunday when they scored a pair of goals 19 seconds apart in the first quarter on their way to securing top spot in the West Division with a 3-1 victory over the Waterloo Warriors at Varsity Field.
“That was our best game of the season,” coach Michelle Turley said. “Every one of our players played a standout game, played their best game. They were all on fire, firing on all cylinders and pressing and pressing and pressing. We were playing intelligent hockey. We were just making good decisions, good choices and just kept peppering them and peppering them and peppering them.”
Guelph Gryphons 3 Waterloo 1
The defending champion Gryphs were a determined bunch, especially in the first half when they outshot the Warriors 11-1. The hosts added their other goal in the second quarter while Waterloo narrowed the gap with a goal in the third quarter.
The Gryphs had entered the match coming off three consecutive games that were must-win contests for them to secure top spot in the division.
“The last three games that we played, we knew we had to win (all of them),” Turley said. “We had to win the last three games in order to be able to finish first in the West Division and host the (division final).”
And the Gryphs did win those games, scoring one-goal victories in each. They beat the Western Mustangs by 2-1 scores Oct. 15 at Western and last Tuesday in Guelph and they edged the Warriors at Waterloo 1-0 Friday. That left the Gryphs and Waterloo tied for first entering the final day of regular-season play.
“Going into today’s game, we said the pressure was all on them,” Turley said. “Yes, we have to win, but they have to win it more. And we never said we could tie. We could tie and we would’ve been second and then we would’ve had to go to Western to play (the final), but we wanted to host. We wanted to be on our home turf to host.”
The Gryphs had started the season slowly, tying McMaster Marauders in a scoreless game in Hamilton in their season opener. It was McMaster’s first game since joining the league, although the Marauders had participated in the 2019 OUA playoffs as a club team. They’re still a club team, but are members of the league.
“All the other teams had between one and three exhibition games. We had none,” Turley said. “It took us a while to kind of connect on the field. We got off to a bad start. We go to play Mac and we’d beaten Mac in the quarters in 2019, 8-0. We weren’t overconfident because there’s a lot of new people, but we still knew that they’d just come into the league and we knew that they didn’t have the opportunity to recruit and all those kind of things. So we go there and we tie the game. It just got us off on the wrong foot at the start of the season.”
The Gryphs went into league play without any preseason games because planned matches against the Guelph Cobras club team and friends fell through when the University of Guelph put a double vaccination protocol in place.
“Our plan was to play my Guelph Cobras team which I thought would be more competition,” Turley said. “They would have been stronger. I was going to put Oliver (Lane), who is one of my coaches (with the Gryphons), and one of my other coaches is Brienne Stairs who played years and years ago. She’s doing her Masters here.”
In the West Division, Guelph and Waterloo had tougher schedules than Western and McMaster. The Gryphs and Warriors played each other four times and played Western and McMaster twice each while Western and McMaster played each other four times.
The Gryphs are the defending champions as they won the league title in 2019 while the 2020 season was cancelled due to the pandemic. The Gryphs had finished the 2019 season in first place when all seven teams that competed were lumped in a single division. While Waterloo was fifth, the Warriors came up big in the playoffs and finished as bronze medalists. Western was sixth and McMaster didn’t compete in the league.
For the Gryphs Sunday, Bailey Mitchell scored the two quick goals while Darci Moher added the second-quarter goal.
Hannah Cook connected for the goal for Waterloo with help from Miranda Hunter.
Nicola Leech and Amanda Hodgert shared the goaltending chores for the Gryphs while Marley Dowling was in net for Waterloo.
The Gryphs finish atop the West Division at 5-1-2 while Western was second at 5-2-1, Waterloo third at 3-3-2 and McMaster fourth at 0-7-1.
Toronto Varsity Blues placed first in the East Division at 6-0-2 while the York Lions were second at 4-2-2 and Queen’s Gaels third at 0-8-0. McGill Martlets pulled out of the league before it started.
Top two in each division qualified for the playoffs.
The Gryphs are to host Western in the West Division final Friday at 7 p.m. at Varsity Field. Toronto and York are to clash in the East Division final Saturday afternoon at the U of T’s Back Campus Fields.
Division champions are to meet in the OUA final Nov. 6. The Varsity Blues will host the league final if they beat York while the Gryphs will host it if they beat Western and York beats Toronto.
The Gryphs have become perennial championship-game participants as they currently have a streak of 13 consecutive appearances in the final. They won five of those games and 10 of them were against Toronto. Of the other three, two were against York and the other one was against Waterloo.
- Guelph Sports Journal