By: Kajan Thiruthanikasalam
Heading into this evening's matchup against the Fleming Knights, the Centennial Colts women's soccer team were on a high after earning their first win of the season, 5-1, last Friday night against the Loyalist Lancers.
Although it started off with a lot of physicality and despite the slow start from the home side, the Colts got the result they desired. And it was a familiar face that set the tone for them.
Nailah Rowe shone once again as she played a part in all three goals scored, with two goals and an assist as Centennial (2-2) defeated Fleming (0-3), 3-1, in front of a raucous crowd at Progress Sports Turf Field.
"We've had more time to practice and be together," Rowe said. "Having all that time together makes it easier for us and now we jell better."
For Rowe (45", 72"), it was her sixth and seventh goals of the young season as the dynamic forward wowed everyone in attendance with her touch and speed.
"You don't give someone as good as Nailah instructions," head coach Diarmuid O'Connor said. "You just tell her to go and do her thing."
Midfielder Shianne Carrington (73") scored her second of the season and Fleming wrapped up the game's scoring on a goal from Robyn Barker in the 76th minute.
Fleming had control of possession for the first 20 minutes of the first half and had the game's first chance on net on a free kick from Zoe Harrington that was stopped by goalkeeper Sabrina Rizzo.
Tensions reached a boiling point in the 30th minute when midfielder Caitlin Cosgrove was shoved while out of bounds by Veronica Blakely-Kellard. Rowe took exception, shoving her before also exchanging shovels with a charging Giana Koskina. All three players received yellow cards as the dust settled.
"That's a teammate looking after a teammate," O'Connor said. "Without a doubt, I'd prefer a yellow card standing up for her teammate(s) rather than mouthing off."
Rowe was more blunt about it, saying, "Don't touch my teammate. That's all I have to say."
Centennial then responded, taking numerous shots during the first half but none of them found the target.
That changed in stoppage time of the first half when Rowe curved a free kick with her left foot past Alexandra Grenier to open the scoring, although O'Connor was not impressed by how the first half transpired.
"I thought they (Fleming) were the better team in the first half," O'Connor said. "We didn't warm up correctly and we were very lucky to be up at the half."
Fleming desperately tried to tie the game as the second half started and had a glorious chance with a scramble in the penalty box in the 52nd minute. But defender Dallis McLean sent the ball out of harm's way before it crossed the goal line.
Centennial then got that crucial second goal in the 72nd minute when Rowe went solo on the rush, turning a defender around before beating Grenier with a right footed strike.
That margin increased two minutes later when a cross from Rowe went straight off the chest of Carrington into the back of the net.
Barker put Fleming on the board in the 76th minute but it became too little too late for the visitors as Centennial coasted to their second consecutive win.
"For us, these were two must-win games," O'Connor said. "Our crowd was raucous; shoutout to them. We've got a strong home base."
"It shows that we have love for our team beyond our team," Rowe said of the fanbase.
But the schedule doesn't get easier for Centennial and there's a couple of things that Rowe feels like the team could improve upon.
"Connecting on passes more," Rowe said. "I want to be more than just kick to our wings and distribute from the middle. I want to create opportunities from the back and generate more possession."
The Lady Colts will be back in action as they continue their five game home stand and look to extend their winning streak to three, facing off against the Algonquin Thunder on Friday Sept. 27 at 6:00pm.