The Toronto Varsity Blues won the 2008 Ontario University Athletics Field Hockey Championship, defeating the defending champion Guelph Gryphons 2-1 Sunday (Oct. 26) at Varsity Centre.
Toronto won three straight field hockey titles from 2004 to 2006. All three goals came in the first half.
“It was a bittersweet win for us, as some of our key players are leaving us this year,” said Varsity Blues’ head coach John De Souza. “They are the heart and soul of this team and we will be sad to see them go.”
Among the graduating players are two-time OUA Most Valuable Player Cailie O’Hara (Oakville), and four-time OUA All-Star Shannon Treacy (Burlington).
“We’re happy we came away with the win but we are still not completely happy with how we played,” said O’Hara. “It wasn’t the perfect game we were looking for so hopefully we will improve in time for the CIS championship next weekend.”
Guelph controlled things early with some solid defensive play, forcing the Varsity Blues into their own end. OUA First Team All-Star Brienne Stairs (Kitchener) scored the first goal of the game, sending a rebound over the head of Toronto goaltender Samantha Lyzun (West Vancouver, B.C.). The Blues settled down and began to apply pressure. On their first corner opportunity, Toronto had two close-range scoring chances, but could not find a way past Guelph goalie Nadia Marques (Burlington).
Toronto got on the board when fourth-year veteran and OUA First Team All-Star Kri Shier (North Vancouver, B.C.) sent a shot in from just outside the circle to teammate Katherine McNeill (West Vancouver, B.C.) who tipped it in to tie things up at 1-1.
The Gryphons came back with pressure of their own late in the half. Three short corners produced some good scoring opportunities with the last one flicked over the Varsity Blues net.
In the dying minute of the first half, Blues midfielder Treacy sent a beautiful stick-to-stick pass to forward Kyesia O’Neale (Mississauga) who one-timed it into the Gryphons net, giving the Blues a 2-1 at the midway point of the game.
The second half proved to be a nail-biting, back-and-forth battle as the Gryphons tried to pull even but the Blues were
equally as determined to stop them.
Both Toronto and Guelph were down one player at different points in the half when Varsity Blues forward Rianna Sterk (Embro, Ont.) and Gryphons defender Megan Shewfelt (Tavistock, Ont.) were sent off for tackle penalties.
The Gryphons put forth a fantastic rallying effort and were awarded with three short corners in the last three minutes of the game, however, the Blues fought through and kept Guelph off the scoreboard, reclaiming the OUA championship with the 2-1 victory.
In the OUA bronze medal game, the Western Mustangs defeated the Waterloo Warriors 2-1. The Varsity Blues and Gryphons will participate in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Field Hockey Championship from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 in Victoria, B.C.