X-Women upset top-seeded Sea-Hawks in penalty-kick thriller

Photo credit Vaughan Merchant
Photo credit Vaughan Merchant

White and Blue move on to AUS championship match on Sunday

Sydney, N.S. – It was pandemonium on the pitch when STFX X-Women goalkeeper Christina Gentile (Laval, QC) turned aside a penalty kick from Briana Pender (Goulds, NL) of the Memorial Sea-Hawks, which provided the White and Blue with a spot in Sunday afternoon's gold medal match at the 2021 Subway AUS Women's Soccer Championships at CBU.

The game-winning stop – one that gave the X-Women a 2-1 victory, on penalty kicks – came on the ninth shooter for the Sea-Hawks, which came after homegrown product freshman Mairin Canning (Antigonish, N.S.) tallied on the ninth attempt for the X-Women.

STFX outscored Memorial 7-6 in penalty kicks.

"It was an amazing game," first-year X-Women defender Abby Steen (Stittsville, ON) – a second-team conference all-star selection – said after the dramatic finish.

She added that her team knew it would be a tough match against the Sea-Hawks, who finished in first place with a 10-2 record in the regular season.

"We performed well and with a lot of passion," Steen said of the X-Women's effort.

As for the mood of her team heading to penalty kicks, which came after the sides played to a 1-1 in regulation and 30 minutes of overtime, she said "nervous."

"We all just encouraged each other to take a breath," Steen added.

She praised the effort of her goalkeeper in securing the victory.

"Chris [Gentile] made some amazing saves," Steen said.

In the opening couple minutes of the first half, the Sea-Hawks came up empty on a corner-kick opportunity, but – just more than one minute later – AUS most valuable player Holly O'Neill (St. John's, NL) got behind the X-Women defense and drew a foul. On the ensuing free kick, conference second-team all-star headed the ball away, but Nicole Torraville (St. John's, NL) showed deft touch and volleyed home the first goal behind goalkeeper Christina Gentile (Laval, QC) in the third minute.

A couple minutes later, the X-Women looked for the equalizer but Steen headed an Amanda Smith (Ottawa, ON) corner kick wide of the net behind Sea-Hawk goalkeeper Sydney Walsh (St. John's, NL).

Off a free kick just outside the 18-yard box, O'Neill blistered a shot but Gentile made the stop.

The conference MVP left the game in the 64th minute with an injury, but returned to play OT and participate in the penalty kicks.

In the 17th minute, STFX made it 1-1 off a stellar individual effort from Smith, who controlled the ball off a scramble and ripped a left-footed shot that bested Walsh, who dove to her left to make a save attempt.

That was the last goal until penalty kicks, although bother sides had several opportunities to score in regulation and overtime, but the defenses – led by Gentile and Memorial's Sydney Walsh, an AUS second-team all-star, stood tall.

With the win, the X-Women move on to play either the Acadia Axewomen or host Cape Breton University (CBU) Capers for the AUS banner on Sunday, Nov. 7 – at 1 p.m. AST.

Noting that STFX has a lot of first-year players, Steen described making the championship match as "amazing."

"It is an honour," she said of the opportunity.

Watch the gold-medal match webcast live at AUStv.ca.


Courtesy Corey LeBlanc