By Thomas Becker
After a successful regular season where they went a combined 5-2-2 (over two tournaments), the Panthers have their eyes set on the Atlantic University Field Hockey (AUFH) championship.
However, it won't come easy as they face stiff competition in hosts Dalhousie (9-0) and Saint Mary's (4-3-2).
"Dal has a very strong team this year with a lot of older, experienced players that are good offensively and defensively," said head coach Lacey MacLauchlan.
The Panthers are looking for redemption after coming up short against the Tigers in the championship game a year ago. Still, the bench boss is confident her team is capable of pulling off an upset and taking home the ultimate prize.
"The team is going into the final tournament with confidence, especially after the tournament here at UPEI and the following weeks of practice," she said.
In the tournaments leading up to the big weekend, the Panthers finished second in goals for (19) and goals against (13), only trailing the Tigers who scored 39 times and allowed just two goals over the nine games. UPEI's Sarah Sear led her team and the league with eight goals, while Alyssa Ferguson and Kelsey Gallant chipped in with three apiece.
"We have a strong forward line so we'll be looking at them to contribute offensively," MacLauchlan said. "We'll also be counting on our goalie Jacklyn MacKinnon to have a big tournament and Hannah Gormley and Karleigh MacEwen to control the middle."
The defensive side of the field may be the deciding factor on whether they ultimately take home the championship or come up empty handed. During practice, the Panthers have been working tirelessly on their defensive schemes in hopes of changing their championship fortunes.
"We're looking to improve on our defensive play in the shooting circle," MacLauchlan said. "But we'll need a strong all around effort from the entire team – from the goalie to the forwards – if we're going to be successful"