UPEI women’s soccer coach Graeme McDonald has a simple message for his players.
The Panthers find themselves in a tight spot in the battle for a playoff spot. They basically have to win both games and hope for some help. The women are tied with UNB for eighth place, two points back of Moncton for the sixth and final playoff spot. UPEI (4-5-1) plays at Acadia (5-3-2) today at 3 p.m., then faces Dalhousie (6-3-1) in Halifax on Sunday at 1 p.m.
“We’re in the last weekend and all we can ask for is a chance, right?’’ McDonald said. “We’ve got a chance, we just have to take care of our own business. It’s as simple as that. My message to the girls was ‘How bad do you want it?’’’
The coach said in previous matches, the Panthers tied Acadia and gave Dalhouse all it could handle, just didn’t get the win, so UPEI knows success is within its grasp.
McDonald is hoping forward Sarah MacVarish continues her strong play. MacVarish has five goals and 22 shots in 10 games this season.
“She’s the one that can hurt teams with her speed and she can be the one that can be a game changer for us. I don’t want to put all the eggs in her basket but she is the one girl on our team that could get us that goal we need to win a game.’’
McDonald also singled out the strong play of forward Jade-Evelyne Bellemare and his defence. Meanwhile, Tyffanie Bordage has also had a strong season with five points.
Meanwhile, the men sit tied Memorial at 4-5-1 for sixth place. However, Memorial has the tiebreaker. The men tangle on the road with Acadia (5-3-2) today at 5:15 p.m. and Dalhousie on Sunday at 3:15 p.m.
“They are big games for the men’s soccer team this weekend, for sure, but we’ve been playing playoff soccer for the past two weeks anyway, so we’re definitely up for the challenge,’’ said head coach Lewis Page.
There are four teams battling for the last two playoff spots, UPEI, Dalhousie, Memorial and Moncton, the latter two of which played each other Friday night and again today, so UPEI will have a good idea going into its weekend games where it stands.
As for players to watch, the Panthers will continue to count on centreback Ben Keefe who came in to replace the injured Mark Smith earlier this season.
“Ben came in there and filled in really well at centreback for us. We’re going to need another strong game out of him in both games.’’
Page also had praise for the excellent goalkeeping by Brett Strba, the overall play of Sam Smiley and the return of Mohammad Jaber as key factors this weekend.
“Jaber, who has been injured for most of the year, is healthy again and has probably been at his best in the last week and a half of training and then Sam Smiley has probably been our best player all year. We’re looking for those two to provide us with the offence and Ben and Brett to keep us safe at the back.’’