Montana Leonard scored a hat-trick to send the Calgary Dinos into the championship final and defeat the Toronto Varsity Blues 3-1 on Saturday night at Centennial Stadium.
Both teams were comfortable showcasing their skill, moving the ball up the field from the opening whistle. Calgary’s aggressive play in the first 25 minutes resulted in several corner kicks that had Toronto keeper Levana Staggolis on her toes to stifle any threat that came her way.
Possession continued to favour the Dinos as they confidently used their footwork to dance around the Blues. Leonard finally broke the deadlock in the 44th minute to put the Dinos in the lead after a nifty three-pass play from her teammates left her alone in front of the Toronto net.
“We began preparing for this since the beginning of the season. Today, I woke up dialed in and I just wanted to get it done for my team,” said Leonard. “Our back line is always solid, our midfield is always solid. I just had to get it done for the team. It was a great feeling.”
Not to be outdone, Toronto’s Miranda Badovinac scored a minute later on the end of Second Team All-Canadian Jenny Wolever’s run down the left flank. Wolever used her speed to evade a defender and slid the ball across the six-yard box where Badovinac was there to finish the goal.
The second half started much like the first, with Calgary playing a patient passing game and Toronto countering with speedy runs by Badovinac and Wolever. The Dinos broke through in the 58th minute after Sienna Prince-McPherson placed a pass to Leonard, who put it past the keeper to take the lead for the second time.
Toronto began to push for the equalizer with a frenetic pace but Calgary was happy to slow the pace down and work hard defensively. Toronto continue to thread passes together and Calgary continued to chase.
In perhaps the biggest save of the game, Rachel Barlow seemed to catch Staggolis off her line in the 85th minute only to see her recover and keep the ball from crossing the line.
“They definitely sat back a little more after their second goal and played more defensively,” said Badovinac. “It was hard for us to build an attack and get numbers in the box because so many of them were back on defence.”
With the Blues pushing, Calgary had a two-on-two breakaway with Kelsie MacDonald sending a pass to Leonard for her third goal of the game to seal the victory.
Calgary will play the UBC Thunderbirds in the championship final Sunday afternoon at 6:00 p.m. ET/3:00 p.m. PT in a rematch of the Canada West finals last week won by Calgary. UBC will be going for its seventh national championship, while Calgary aims for its second. Its only previous title came in 1998 when UVic also hosted the tournament.
“It’s definitely going to be a battle,” said Leonard. “Both teams know each other very well. It’s going to come down to whoever wants it more/”
The Varsity Blues will play the Acadia Axewomen in the bronze medal game at 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT. That will be preceded by the consolation final at 1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT, featuring the host Vikes and Montreal Carabins.
“We can definitely learn from this game,” said Badovinac. “We are going to have to fight for it tomorrow and hopefully we can earn the bronze. We worked really hard to get here. We want to earn something.”
Nike Top Performers
CGY: Montana Leonard
TOR: Miranda Badovinac