Waterloo, Ont. - The York Lions field hockey team made it two consecutive OUA field hockey championships on Sunday, defeating the Guelph Gryphons by a score of 1-0 in the final of the OUA's banner season event.
Playing in a cold, overcast day at Warrior Field in Waterloo, Ont., the Lions jumped out a quick start when forward Jaslan Stirling scored six minutes into the game. Stirling found herself alone in front of Warriors goaltender Amanda Hodgert and deaked to her left around the goalie to find a wide-open net and give the Lions a 1-0 lead.
The goal was Stirling's fourth of the playoffs after scoring a hat-trick in the quarterfinal on Friday. Stirling left the semi-final game yesterday with an injury after taking a ball to the face, but showed she was no worse for wear in scoring the championship-winning goal just minutes into the final game.
Both teams had their chances to add to the score throughout the game but couldn't capitalize. The Gryphons kept the pressure on the Lions throughout the second half and were all over the York net in the final minutes. The last five minutes of the game were spent almost wholly in the Lions end, as Guelph had several consecutive penalty corners and chances to score, but the Lions defence held strong and thwarted their attempts to even up the game. York goalie Alycia Gray was impressive throughout the game and picked up the shutout for the now back-to-back champions.
The low-scoring game was starkly different from the Lions first two games of the tournament, where they defeated the McMaster Marauders 16-0 in the quarterfinals and the host Waterloo Warriors 8-2 in the semi-final. The OUA title was the program's ninth in school history, with the Lions having gone through quite a turnaround in the last few years. They have now won OUA championships in consecutive years after going through a 21-year championship drought since their title in 1996.
The Lions will now host the University of Victoria Vikes at Alumni Field next weekend in the U SPORTS championships. The national championship will be decided in a best-of-three series that will start Friday afternoon. Game 2 will take place on Saturday and if necessary Game 3 will be played on Sunday. The Vikes won their 18th CanWest championship title to advance to nationals by placing first in the CanWest division.
In the bronze medal match, it was the Toronto Varsity Blues who defeated the host Waterloo Warriors 3-0. Toronto wasted no time in this one, as veteran Rachel Spouge opened the scoring with a booming shot in the fifth minute. 2018 OUA player of the year Emily Ziraldo doubled Toronto's lead 20 minutes later, scoring off a penalty corner to put the Blues up 2-0 at the half. Sophomore standout Anna Costanzo added an insurance marker in the 42nd minute to round out the scoring.