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Guelph Union rallies in second half to win home opener

GUELPH – Continuing on the theme of red-clad women’s soccer teams scoring victories, Guelph Union tallied twice in the second half to pip Waterloo United 2-1 in their League1 Ontario women’s championship division home opener Saturday at Alumni Stadium.

“It feels really, really good and especially with the adjustment the ladies made at halftime,” Union coach Onkar Dhillon said. “We just brought them in and we told them to stick to our principles and try to go back to the simple things that we know we do well that we just weren’t doing in the first half. It was an easy fix. The players, we brought AC (Lang) in at halftime. She calmed the group down. She’s been in this league a long time and she knows how to play at this level. She just stuck to our principles, we made those adjustments and then the girls just lit up. There was no magical elixir at halftime apart from reminding them to stay to the simple things.”

Dani Sauve’s goal with about nine minutes to go in regulation time proved to be the winner for the locals. She was in the right spot on the right side to pounce on a loose ball and blast it home to give Union its first lead of the game.

“It was all set up so perfectly and the ball just happened to come through to me,” Sauve said. “I was a bit stressed but it all worked out. I thought the goalie might have gotten it, she got a tip on it, but it was just a nice shot.”

“Dani Sauve scores goals like that in training,” Dhillon said. “She has an engine, she has a third lung to be able to do that all game long and so she has the gas late in the game to make that late run from a defensive position and hit that shot.”

“It was right place, right time, and Liv (Olivia Brown) did a good job fending off her player to let the ball come through to me,” Sauve said. “It just worked out that way.”

Waterloo had scored the game’s opening marker as Raya Athwal connected from 35 yards out about 17 minutes into the game.

That goal stood as the only goal of the match until the first minute of the second half when Victoria Hinchliffe directed a shot home as she broke free on a breakaway.

“This is Victoria Hinchliffe,” Dhillon said. “This is what Victoria can do for you. She can change a game on a dime and she did.”

Union had to withstand a late push by Waterloo during stoppage time, Guelph goalkeeper Santana Ferreira having to make a couple of key saves, the biggest one being a diving stop in the midst of a scramble just off the goalline.

“That just happens,” Dhillon said. “They felt the urgency for a goal and our group was kind of buckling under a little bit of pressure. We had a couple of players cramping up, but then our keeper comes up big and we have a resolve there and we get it done. The opposition was really strong today and we really give it to Waterloo for their performance.”

A crowd of just over 500 witnessed Union’s first ever home match in league play.

“That’s honestly the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of and it’s really important to see women’s sports have that kind of turnout,” Sauve said. “It’s really good and it’s on the rise which is really promising for us and the future generations, too. It was really, really awesome to see.”

The victory extends Union’s winning streak in their League1 Ontario debut to three games as they had earlier scored a pair of shutout victories on the road, winning 1-0 over Darby FC (1-1-0) at Clarington July 22 and 2-0 over Blue Devils B (1-1-0) at North York Aug. 1.

Waterloo fell to 0-2-1. Both losses were single-goal setbacks.

Union also reached the midway point of its season with Saturday’s win. The pandemic caused the delay in the start of the season and forced the league to come up with options for teams like Union that consist mainly of university players.

“It feels amazing to be playing again,” Sauve said. “(After being) off for a year and a half and being able to come back out and play the sport we love and let our stress out, let all our emotions out and have fun while doing it is just so good.”

Union is to host Blue Devils C (0-0-1) Sunday at Alumni Stadium. Game time is 5 p.m.

  • Guelph Sports Journal