Kingston, Ont. - Two of the top field hockey teams in the OUA, the Toronto Varsity Blues and York Lions, are set to face off on Saturday for the first time this season, and both will do so with a championship-pedigree roster as part of this week’s OUA marquee matchup, powered by Planters.
For the first time in almost 20 years, the York Lions entered the season atop the OUA throne after claiming the 2017 championship with a 3-2 victory over Guelph. But while this was the Lions’ first taste of victory since 1996, their marquee matchup combatants have been no stranger to the role of champion. In fact, entering play a season ago, the Toronto Varsity Blues earned the championship in five of the last six seasons, including the previous three titles. And this season, both teams have picked up right where they left off.
Neither team has found the loss column yet, with both looking to turn this early season success into a return trip to the championship circle. After starting their season with a 1-1 draw in their championship rematch with Guelph, York has reeled four straight wins, beating the likes of McGill, Queen’s, Waterloo, and Western. Giving up just three goals over that span, the Lions have definitely shown that their 2017 title is no fluke.
The province’s top goal scorer thus far, reigning co-MVP Jaslan Stirling (Mississauga, Ont.), will be working to continue her torrid pace to further cement her side’s strong start, and after netting six goals in three games last weekend, she will surely be tough to stop. Stirling doesn’t do it alone; however, as the Lions bring the top offensive unit into this weekend’s play, averaging 4.8 goals per game.
Among those helping York do their damage on the scoreboard are freshman Chloe Walton (Vancouver, B.C.) and senior Sydney McFaul (Coquitlam, B.C.), who have put home five and three goals, respectively. Six other Lions have found the score sheet this season, and while the team has done well to put the ball in the net, the combination of Alycia Gray (Port Moody, B.C.) and Sareena Clay (Port Moody, B.C.) have also managed to keep it out, but they’re about to see their toughest test yet.
Toronto has a trio of dynamic scorers to rival those of the Lions and they’ll be looking to make waves in this top-two battle on Saturday. Emily Ziraldo’s (Toronto, Ont.) six goals have paced the Varsity Blues thus far, but Anna Costanzo (Burlington, Ont.) and Hilary Ziraldo (Toronto, Ont.) aren’t far behind with five and four, respectively. They have combined with four other Blues to rack up the team’s 20 goals on the season, a number that has helped them rack up five straight wins in the early going.
Despite averaging fewer goals per contest than York, the Varsity Blues are more than able to hold their own on both ends of the field. With an average of four goals per game, and having surrendered just two goals in their five games behind the strong net play of Elizabeth O’Hara (Oakville, Ont.) and Sara Fredo (Burlington, Ont.), the Varsity Blues will surely offer some stiff competition in their continued quest toward victory.
While both teams offer a balanced attack, it was the electric offence of the York Lions that gave them the edge in both of last year’s head-to-head matchups. York took home 3-0 and 3-1 victories in their GTA battles in 2017, balancing the scales from the pair of Toronto wins the season prior. So whether it is head-to-head or in the grander scale of the OUA, it is truly anyone’s game in this battle of the titans.
With the full slate of field hockey action being hosted at Queen’s University, this week’s marquee matchup will hit the field at 10:45am on Saturday morning, with both teams taking part in their first of two matches on the day.