The McCrae Cup is just one game away now after the University of Victoria Vikes women’s field hockey team put away the York Lions 2-1 in Game 1 of the U SPORTS National Championship hosted at Alumni Field in Toronto, Ont. First-year forward Erin Dawson potted two goals for the Vikes as the team can cash in on their championship hopes tomorrow with a win in the best-of-three series.

Dawson potted a goal per half and both finishes were credit to the hard work from senior and co-captain Delaney Booker. Second-year Vikes netminder Robin Fleming had her share of work to do but showed confidence to preserve the victory. The defensive efforts of U SPORTS All-Canadians Emily Wong and Anna Mollenhauer were pivotal to the victory.

For the Lions, lone fifth-year defender Sarah Vollmerhausen was critical both defensively and offensively. The veteran took nearly every free hit in the York back field and her well paced hits or long aerials sparked most of York’s attack. U SPORTS All-Canadian Jaslan Stirling and OUA All-Star Amber Sandhu were the spirited pair of front that generated most of the offensive threat for York with the pair combining for York’s lone goal of the game.

The opening moments were tentative for both sides as the teams struggled to get their footing as the rain poured across the rubber-based turf fields in Toronto. Home field advantage was apparent as the Lions showed their eye-hand coordination was much more in check in the going minutes, while the Vikes took some time to get used to the thicker surface and different ball than what is used in the Canada West. Vollmerhausen’s aerials were matched well by U SPORTS Player of the Year Anna Mollenhauer’s aerials that were relied upon for the Vikes to relieve pressure.

A different spirit was shown by the hosts, who were shut out of last year’s U SPORTS championship against UBC. The 2017 experience appeared to bolster York’s confidence as they were the first to test their fire power at net. In the fifth minute the Lions earned the game’s opening penalty corner after a Vikes turnover led to a bouncing ball in the circle for Stirling to direct on to a Vikes foot. The ensuing penalty corner was a straight shot blocked Vikes first runner Wong.

Victoria were able to get their first penalty corners in succession in the 11th minute and on the option Mollenhauer laid the ball off to Anso Hannes but the shot gleaned off a York foot in the circle. The following set piece attempt was a straight sweep shot from Mollenhauer and it slid wide past York keeper Alycia Gray’s cage.

Fleming was called to action twice more in the half as York were quick to pounce on the Vikes’ back line as the ball constantly bounced in transition. Hesitation to move the ball around the back field hindered the Vikes’ typical possession style, while the Lions’ pressure was persistent. York defenders Kendra Kerr, Laura Touhey, Sydney McFaul and Vollmerhausen showed great patience managing the speed and three-dimensional skill shown by Vikes attackers Sam McCroryLindsay Cole and Dawson.

In the 31st minute the Vikes were able to break the dead lock as some calm possession from fifth-year Vikes forward Delaney Booker allowed her lift a pass between two York defenders just outside the 23-meter area. Dawson turned on her reception to eliminate two Lions before drawing the ball to her left and sweeping the ball on her back-hand past Gray for a 1-0 Victoria lead.

The lead was short-lived though as just three minutes later the Lions found an equalizer. Vollmerhausen, who was at the anchor of every free hit in the Lions’ half, blasted a ball down the left sideline for Stirling. Last season’s U SPORTS Rookie of the Year was able to calmly lift the ball over Anna Mollenhauer’s stick towards goal as Vikes defender Stefanie Sajko and York’s Amber Sandhu were caught in a foot race. The ball hopped past Sajko, allowing Sandhu to expertly collect it and blast a hit straight in to the bottom corner past Fleming for a 1-1 tie.

In the second half the Lions had one of the best chances in the game as a Vollmerhausen bounced past the Vikes to Stirling. Stirling turned to find a wide open Haley Bannister at the top of the Vikes circle but it was well-challenged by Fleming to keep the Lions at bay.

Play continued end to end for much of the second half with the Vikes changing up their attack a bit more to run with it. The strategy benefited the Vikes continued to run the ball in to the York’s 23-meter area.

In the 58th minute Booker and Dawson linked up once again to bury the Vikes’ second goal. Booker’s strength along the right baseline allowed her to find Dawson at the stroke mark and the Handsworth Secondary grad found the top of the net to lift the Vikes up 2-1.

The Vikes had a chance to go up by two on a penalty corner late in the half. Mollenhauer’s sweep shot at goal was cleared right back to her at the top of the circle. The Victoria native pulled the ball to her specialty back hand but her expert shot rang off the cross bar.

Midfielder Frankie St. Louis had the last good scoring chance for the Lions but a shot from 20 yards out was deflected wide by a Vikes defender in front of the net. The 2-1 win puts the McCrae Cup just one game away, while 70 minutes will still be on the table for the Lions to tie up the series.

Goalscorers Dawson and Sandhu were named Players of the Game.

The loss was the first of the season for the home squad, as the Lions were undefeated through the regular season (10-0-2) and OUA playoffs (3-0). Game 2 of the U SPORTS Championship will be played on Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT. If necessary, Game 3 will be played Sunday at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT

SCORING SUMMARY
VIC: 1 – 1 : 2
YRK:  1- 0 : 1

SCORING SUMMARY

First Half
31′ VIC – Erin Dawson, FG, 1-0 UVIC
33′ YRK – Amber Sandhu, FG, 1-1 TRK

Second Half
58′ VIC – Erin Dawson, FG, 2-1 UVIC

GOALKEEPERS
VIC – Robin Fleming, 70 MP, 1 GA
YRK – Alycia Gray, 70 MP, 2 GA

CARDS
24′ YRK – #15 Frankie St. Louis, GC
38′ YRK – #12 Jaslan Stirling, GC

PLAYERS OF THE GAME
VIC – Erin Dawson
YRK – Amber Sandhu

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