Fury fired up about playoff rematch

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

To hear the Ottawa Fury tell it, Charmaine Hooper's words haven't done a thing to stoke their fire any further.

Instead, they remain focused on a singular goal -- that elusive first W-League crown.

The Fury took another step in that direction last night in West Windsor, N.J., blanking the Western Mass Lady Pioneers 3-0 in an Eastern Conference semi-final played on a searing pitch at Mercer County Community College.

Ottawa will face the unbeaten New Jersey Wildcats today at 5 p.m., with a berth in next weekend's W-League finals in Vancouver on the line. The Wildcats needed overtime to hold off the upset-minded Long Island Lady Riders 3-2 last night.

Tonight's game is a rematch of the 2005 W-League final, which the Wildcats won 3-0 at Mercer.

New Jersey will line up today without Hooper and starting goaltender Karina LeBlanc, who are in Cary, N.C., with Canada's national team for a friendly against the U.S. Four Fury players -- midfielders Robin Gayle and Diana Matheson, forward Rhian Wilkinson and keeper Taryn Swiatek -- are in the national team pool, but will play for Ottawa this afternoon.

That irked Hooper, a Nepean native, who told the Canadian Press on Friday she thought it was a "no-brainer" that playing for the national team should take precedence over "some stupid W-League team."

"We are not allowed to play (against the Fury)," fumed Hooper. "The Ottawa players are allowed to play in that game. You explain that."

If Hooper's harsh words did anything to fire up the Fury players, they weren't saying it yesterday.

"It was nothing to us, really," said Fury forward Amy Vermeulen. "We didn't even think about that.

"The whole idea of (today) being a rematch (of last year's final) adds enough fuel for us. That's really all we need."

Fury owner John Pugh said there's a simple reason why his national teamers aren't in North Carolina today -- they weren't asked by Canadian coach Even Pellerud.

"If our players had been asked (to play in today's friendly), they would have been there, no question," said Pugh. "The bottom line is, we will always support the national team. If Even comes to our team and requests one of our players, she will be there."

PLAYERS MISSED FINALS

Three years ago, the Fury surrendered three players for national team duty "just as we were getting on the bus to head to the W-League finals," Pugh added.

On the pitch yesterday, the Fury dominated the Lady Pioneers throughout, holding an 18-4 edge in shots on goal. But it took until the 63rd minute to snap a scoreless draw, when Vermeulen connected on a penalty kick after Stacey Stocco was hauled down in the area.

"That kind of opened the floodgates," said Vermeulen.

Leah Robinson added some insurance in the 72nd minute, then Wilkinson struck a minute later.

"We played a solid game for 90 minutes," said Fury coach Frank Lofranco. "It was just a question of finishing the opportunities that we were getting."

Western Mass came into the match with a lineup that boasted the W-League's top two scorers, Kelly Shimmin and Katie Schoepfer. But Swiatek and the Fury shut them down.

A radio broadcast of tonight's game is available on the Internet at www.njwildcats.com.


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