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Knafelc’s hat trick helps Union leave Blue Devils C behind

GUELPH – The drive to Guelph Sunday was certainly worth it for Guelph Union forward Kate Knafelc.

She recorded a hat trick as Union dropped the Oakville Blue Devils C squad 7-0 in League1 Ontario women’s Championship Division play at Alumni Stadium.

“Three was a surprise,” Knafelc said of her scoring. “It’s really nice to get back. I haven’t scored in a while, I haven’t had the opportunity so it’s nice to get back and just get those goals in. It just feels really good.”

Knafelc drives about an hour and a half from Ridgeville, near Welland, to Guelph to play and practise with the Union squad so she can get some games in prior to the start of the OUA university women’s league season.

“I would’ve played up here last year but for COVID so this is the first year that I have come up here to play,” she said. “It was really important to me to play with the university girls. Just heading into the season, I wanted to be around them and be with them. It is a lot of driving, but I make it work because I think that’s what’s best for me and what’s best for the team.”

Knafelc, who had five goals for the Guelph Gryphons in her rookie season of 2019, is one of 13 players on the Union side suited up for Sunday’s contest who would’ve played for the Gryphs last fall had there been an OUA season.

“Having a season prior to the university season is so crucial,” she said. “Even just the training and getting on the ball makes such a difference. I think if we were to go into the university season without being on the ball like we have, it would be a different game so getting everyone back to that level and the speed of play, this has really helped us do that.”

The win was the fourth in as many league outings for Union and that leaves them as the only undefeated squad in the division. The loss was the first for Blue Devils C, but it was only their second game in the league. Their first ended in a stalemate.

While the visiting squad was the third of the three teams the Blue Devils are fielding in L1O this season (two in the Championship Division and one in the Premier Division), they weren’t helped by the schedule for all three of those teams.

“The Blue Devils had a fixture glut so they had to send players into three different directions if I understand right so they had to send a more developing squad to us,” Union coach Onkar Dhillon said. “That’s okay. Every player needs their development time so we used it as an opportunity to develop and I’m sure they got some development opportunities there as well.”

The Blue Devils A side had a Sunday game at Tecumseh in the Premier Division while their B side played a Championship Division game at Vaughan Saturday night.

That left Blue Devils C with a fairly young squad that found playing Union to be a bit of a challenge.

“It’s just about staying committed to our principles and working on what we wanted to do out there,” Dhillon said. “We got some key minutes, development minutes for some players so that’s what we take away — just more experience, more work on our system and just putting a shift in.”

“We realized we just needed to focus on playing our own game, not rushing things, especially in the second half,” Knafelc said. “We just wanted to work on our ball movement, keeping the intensity high and really just keeping our level up so that we’re trained and ready to go for our next training session and the following game.”

Union scored in streaks in the game as they had a pair of goals a minute apart before the match was eight minutes old, then added three goals in a span of three minutes about 15 minutes later.

The hosts led 5-0 at halftime and netted two goals, both by Knafelc, six minutes apart about quarter of an hour into the second half.

Other scorers were Sayan Ladhani, Victoria Hinchliffe, Dani Sauve and Olivia Brown.

“I’m very pleased,” Dhillon said of Union’s season. “The ladies are executing at a really high level. They’re taking all the information that we’re giving them and just executing on the pitch. The mistakes they’re making, they’re working through them together and we’re just developing. It seems that every session, every game we’re just add another layer of improvement.”

Guelph leads the Championship Division at 4-0-0 while Vaughan Azzurri B is second at 2-1-0 and is followed by Darby FC (1-1-1), Unionville Milliken SC (1-2-1), Blue Devils B (1-2-0), Blue Devils C (0-1-1) and Waterloo United (0-2-1).

Union has two games left on its season as they’re to play at Unionville Aug. 24 at 9 p.m. and host Vaughan Azzurri B Aug. 29 at Alumni Stadium at 5 p.m.

  • Guelph Sports Journal