By Sports Staff
After fighting to make the playoffs for the first time in six years, and striving to advance past the first round of the postseason for the first time in program history, Ryerson’s women’s soccer team’s year came down to a free kick in the final seconds of overtime.
With the game tied at one in the 120th minute, a Laurentian Voyageur stepped up and lightly lobbed the ball into the keeper’s box. As the ball hung in the air, Rams defender Jalen Simms glanced upward, trying to track both the kick and her mark, Sarah Sanford, the Voyageurs’ leading scorer.
The ball bounced a few feet in front of Simms and directly toward Sanford, who deflected a light header at the bottom left corner of the Rams’ net. Elisa Lapadula—who had put the team on her back this season after senior goalie Brittney Clendenan was injured early on—got fooled by the ball’s spin. She shuffled over to the corner, desperate to save Ryerson’s season.
Lapadula dove, but by the time she hit the ground, Sanford’s header had already hit the back of the net. The shot didn’t look like it should’ve gone in, but it did, and Ryerson’s season was over.
After rookie sensation Victoria Watson put the Rams up 1-0 in the final minute of the first half, it appeared Ryerson’s first-ever playoff win was well within reach.
In two games against Laurentian this season, Ryerson won both matchups by a combined score of 3-0. Watson led the Rams in goals this season, and her often-brilliant play factored heavily into her team’s success.
But in a playoff game, just as in any game, a one-goal lead is never a safe one.
In the 64th minute, Laurentian beat Lapadula, and with the second half clock ticking down, the tension grew. The teams were evenly matched, and despite dropping both decisions against Ryerson this season, the Voyageurs seemed poised and potent.
The second half drew to a close in a stalemate, and a berth in the second round of the OUA playoffs hung in the balance as overtime loomed.
In the first half of the extra frame, both teams played with timidity, unable to risk a defensive lapse and unwilling to commit too much to an all-out offensive attack.
As time wound down, the attack ramped up, and both teams were looking for any chance at slipping a goal past their opponents.
Ninety minutes of soccer is tiring; tacking another 30 minutes of intense overtime on top of that is exhausting. With both teams desperate to put an end to the other’s season, it turned out that Ryerson drew the short end of the stick.
In Ryerson’s two regular season matches against Laurentian, the Rams didn’t allow a single goal. In the playoffs, that’s all forgotten, and the Voyageurs made up for their past struggles in brutal fashion.
During the regular season, the Rams excelled at holding tight leads, with four of their seven victories by a single marker.
On Wednesday, Ryerson found itself on the other side of that margin, and with the season on the line, it isn’t a happy place to be.
Still, the Rams have hope for the future after their first playoff appearance since 2011. With players like Watson, Katherine Sollbach and BreAnah Webster set to star for Ryerson for years to come, next season might end up with a happier playoff result.
But right now, the Rams will have to deal with the sting of a last-second defeat after a season filled with success.
The program’s first playoff victory will have to wait.