The Carleton Ravens don’t go easy on each other in practice, especially as they try to recapture the form they displayed in a pre-season trip to England. Photo: Dan Plouffe
By Dan Plouffe
The Carleton Ravens women’s soccer team has progressed well in recent years but they haven’t quite matched the level of the very best in Ontario, which includes their Rideau Canal neighbours, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.
But this year’s squad is hoping that a unique pre-season trip to Liverpool, England will pay dividends when they face the likes of the reigning national champions (Queen’s) on Sept. 16 and bronze medalists (Gee-Gees) on Sept. 15.
The Ravens spent 10 days in mid-August overseas, playing four games against various levels of English teams, training daily, watching men’s and women’s pro matches, and of course, checking out all the top Beatles attractions.
“It was an amazing experience,” says third-year player Andrea Way, a former Gloucester Hornet who’s carved herself a solid university career after attending open tryouts. “It was so much fun. We all kind of came together as a team and got to know each other really well.”
A big highlight in Way’s mind was seeing the crowd roar for a Manchester United vs Everton premier league game, won by the home side, Everton. And simply soaking up the experience of being in a place where her sport is worshiped.
“Over there, football was everywhere,” explains the striker who’s also dressed for the Fury, Royals and St. Anthony’s clubs over the years. “It was really exciting because we love football, but you don’t see that as much here.”
There was a fair bit of respect for Canadian women’s soccer in England, the players noticed. Arriving on the last day of the Olympics may have had something to do with that, Team Canada having earned a well-deserved bronze medal from the football tournament.
“It was pretty neat because the Olympics had just ended and Canada did so well,” remarks fourth-year midfielder Alex Druggett. “A lot of people recognized Canadian women’s soccer as being pretty good over there. A few people mentioned that Canada beat Great Britain in the (quarters). It was nice. It made us pretty proud.”
Coach’s connection creates chance
The trip came about due to coach Alex McNutt’s Liverpool roots. The fourth-year head coach had the idea in mind for several years, but it took awhile before fundraising efforts were able to pay the tab. He’d like to continue the initiative since he believes it helps build the program, make them a better, closer team and provides inspiration to his troops.
“Players do different things, make different decisions, and when you get exposed to that, all of a sudden you’re learning new things,” McNutt adds. “It was better than expected. It was fantastic. Everything clicked into place.”
In winning three of four matches, the Ravens were in fine form at the time, but have had trouble rediscovering that level early in their season. Carleton has two wins, a loss and a tie.
“That’s a good sign that we’re not play well and still on top in games,” maintains McNutt, who feels he has his best squad in four years this season. “There’s no reason why we can’t do really well this season. I don’t think they’ve shown yet what they can do.”
The Ravens would love to put in their best effort and come out on top of the powerful Gee-Gees, who are ranked second in Canada and carry an enormous win streak against Carleton.
“Those ones are pretty personal,” notes Druggett, who’s played for the Ottawa Internationals and Ottawa South United. “A lot of our friends are on Ottawa U and girls we play against (in club matches). Especially for me because I’m in my fourth year now, you don’t have much time left to beat them, so I really want to this year.”