W-League Final Four Preview

The contenders for the W-League championship have been whittled down to four. In order of seeding, they are: the Washington Spirit Reserves, the Colorado Pride, the Laval Comets, and the Quebec Dynamo ARSQ. Laval – a suburb of Montreal – is hosting the tournament at Desjardins Stadium. The semifinals are on Friday with Quebec facing Washington at 5 and Laval meeting Colorado at 7:30. The consolation game is Sunday at noon followed by the championship at 2:30.

Quebec Dynamo ARSQ

Record: 8-2-2.
Seeded: #4
How qualified: Northeastern Conference champion.
Twitter handle: @dynamoquebec (en français).

The Dynamo joined the W-League in 2009 and made the playoffs 3 of the next 4 years. Their best year was 2012, when they finished 4th in the W-League Final 4, losing in the semifinals to the Pali Blues, then falling to the DC United Women in the consolation match 1-1 (7-6) after an extended penalty kick shootout.

They failed to make the playoffs in 2013 and 2014 but are the most improved team in the league this year, going from 1 win to 8. Improvements occurred on both offense and defense as they went from scoring just 13 goals while allowing 25 to scoring 22 and allowing 12.

On paper, it looks as if they’re a rather physical team. Midfielder Alexandra Brunelle leads the league in fouls committed with 24 in 12 games, while forward Cynthia Turcotte is tied for 4th with 13 in 11.

Goalkeeper Gabrielle Lambert is 3rd in the league with a 0.71 goals against average. Their sole representative on the Northeastern All-Conference Team is defender Marie-Sandra Ujeneza.

Laval Comets

Record: 9-2-1.
Seeded: #3
How qualified: Hosts.
Twitter handle: @LavalCometes (en français).

The Comets joined the W-League in 2006 and have made the playoffs 8 out of 10 years. Their best year was 2013, when they won the Central Conference but lost to the Pali Blues in the league championship match. Last year they lost in the first round of the conference playoffs.

This year they finished with the best record in the Northeastern Conference, an admirable achievement considering they were already qualified for the league Final Four as hosts.

Midfielder Kayla Adamek leads the team on points and is 7th in the league with 8 goals (t-9th) and 5 assists (t-3rd).

They have one name familiar to DC-area fans: Rachelle Beanlands, the starting goalkeeper for the University of Maryland for the past 3 years as well as the starting goalkeeper for ACF Torino in 2013 and 2014. She’s also in the Canadian National Team pool and is first in the league with a 0.631 GAA.

Beanlands and Adamek were named to the Northeastern All-Conference Team along with defender Kelsey Wilson. Adamek was also selected for the All-League Team.

Colorado Pride

Record: 9-2-1.
Seeded: #2
How qualified: Western Conference champion after beating Seattle Sounders Women in conference championship, 2-1.
Twitter handle: @pridewleague.

The Colorado Pride organization was established in 1994 but only joined the W-League in 2014. They finished second in the Western Conference that year, then lost to the Los Angeles Blues, 2-1, in the toughest playoff match the Blues had on their way to the championship.

This year they again finished second in the conference but went on the road and downed first place Seattle to earn the right to represent the Western Conference in the Final Four.

They finished the regular season with a staggering +51 goal differential with both the most goals scored in the league (58) and the fewest allowed (7). (It does help, though, to play in a conference with 2 teams with a -54 and a -60 goal differential.)

Forward Tara Andrews led the league in goals scored with 18 and in points with 39. Fellow forward Alleandra Watt tied for 14th in points with 16 and 7th in assists with 4. Midfielder Laura Kane also has 4 assists. Goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom is second in the league in GAA, barely behind Beanlands at 0.635.

Defender Sophie Howard was named to the Western All-Conference Team, while Andrews and Eckerstrom were named both All-Conference and All-League.

Three players on the team should be familiar to DC fans. Midfielder Holly King played for both the W-League DC United Women (in 2012) and the professional Washington Spirit (in 2013). Eckerstrom also played for the DC United Women in 2012. Kane played for the ASA Chesapeake Charge in 2012 and 2013. She was named the WPSL East Conference Player of the Year for leading the Charge to an undefeated season in 2013.

Washington Spirit Reserves

Record: 9-0-3.
Seeded: #1
How qualified: Southeastern Conference champion.
Twitter handle: @WSReserves.

The Spirit Reserves were established in 2011 as the DC United Women, then were renamed as the amateur arm of the professional Spirit in 2013. They have made the playoffs every year but the first, getting to the championship last year and the Final Four the two years before that.

This year they went undefeated in the toughest conference in the league, finishing just one standings point ahead of the second-place Charlotte Lady Eagles, who would likewise have been the #1 seed in the Final Four had they been able to displace the Reserves. They scored 38 goals while giving up 11, tied for the second stingiest defense in the league.

Washington scores by committee, with no standout star. Imani Dorsey and Meggie Dougherty-Howard tied for 10th in the league with 18 points as well as 9th in goals scored with 8, while Midge Purce is tied for 14th with 16 and is just barely behind with 7 goals.

Dorsey and Dougherty-Howard were named to the Southeastern All-Conference Team along with defender Carson Pickett. Dougherty-Howard was also named to the All-League Team.

Goalkeeper has also been a committee effort, which is less desirable. Unlike recent years they’ve had no regular goalkeeper like Adelaide Gay in 2014 or DiDi Haracic before then. Their main starter has been Katelyn Jensen, who just graduated from high school and heads to Kentucky in the fall. But even she’s only played about half the time, accumulating a 1.333 GAA, which would place her 7th in the league if she weren’t 10 minutes short of the qualifying level of participation. William & Mary’s Caroline Casey and Towson’s Erin Quinn (formerly of the ASA Chesapeake Charge) have filled in the remainder of the net duties.

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