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UPEI edges Dalhousie Tigers 2-0 to claim Atlantic title
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – It’s been a long time coming but the UPEI Panthers can finally call themselves Atlantic University Field Hockey (AUFH) champions.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Panthers fought toe-to-toe against the rival Dalhousie Tigers for league supremacy, and on championship Sunday, Oct. 28, they erased years of heartbreak with a 2-0 win.
“It’s a great feeling knowing all the hard work we put in, not only this season but over the past couple of years, paid off,” said co-captain Karleigh McEwen. “Losing to the Tigers in previous years added fuel to the fire and gave us the extra motivation we needed to play our game and take home the gold.”
UPEI appeared destined to claim the title. They were a veteran team, which came into the finals undefeated and hungry. And if that wasn’t enough, they also hosted the championship tournament on home turf.
“It was very special to win the championship in front of our families, friends and fellow athletes,” McEwen said. “I don't think there’s a better feeling as an athlete than accomplishing a specific goal (in this case the championship) in front of all the individuals that helped you get there.”
It seemed fitting that the Panthers’ top goal-scorer, Alyssa Ferguson, got her team on the scoreboard first. Just two minutes into the game, Ferguson cleaned up a rebound and found the back of the net after fifth-year midfielder Hannah Gormley weaved through the defence and got a shot off.
Sarah Sear closed out the scoring seconds before halftime on a hustle play that led to back-to-back shots on goal. That play of perseverance was symbolic of the season as a whole, as they overcame the one hurdle that separated them from the trophy.
“One of the things I'm most proud of is that we pushed the pace and played a full, strong 60 minutes,” Gormley said. “Dalhousie has been known to capitalize on the opportunities they get. This year we didn't give them those opportunities and we were able to shut them down.”
It capped a season that saw the Panthers earn a 12-0-1 record (their lone tie came against the Tigers). They also led the league in scoring with 47 goals, while surrendering seven.
“The undefeated record added a unique element of pressure to the weekend. No one wanted to tarnish the record in the last tournament of the season,” McEwen said. “I think the record speaks volumes of the hard work the girls put in this season… I couldn't have asked for anything better.”
The championship is the team’s first since 2009. At that time, head coach Lacey MacLauchlan was a sophomore playing for her hometown Panthers.
“It feels good to finally get that championship win. We’re just really proud of the girls and the way they’ve played. They deserved the win and worked hard to get it.”
– Compiled by Thomas Becker for UPEI.