Fury sick of being finals 'bridesmaids'

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Two years ago, the Vancouver Whitecaps rolled into Ottawa and laid claim to the W-League championship trophy.

Now it's the Ottawa Fury's turn to hit the Left Coast for the Final Four championship tournament.

Is a little turnabout in order, perhaps?

"That's the plan, right?" said a grinning midfielder Kelly Parker last night during a break from the Fury's final workout before heading off to Vancouver for their fourth straight Final Four.

The Fury (10-1-1) takes on the Central Conference champion Charlotte Lady Eagles (10-4-0) in one semi-final tomorrow at 8 p.m at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, B.C. Then the host and top-seeded Whitecaps (11-0-1) tangle with the Seattle Sounders Saints (5-4-3), the Western Conference representatives.

The winners meet Sunday night for the championship.

For the Fury, the mission has been clear from Day 1. After finishing fourth, third and second at their previous three Final Fours, there's only one goal left.

"The goal is definitely the championship," said midfielder Diana Matheson, who was named to the W-League's all-star team yesterday (she and Fury defender Robyn Gayle were all-conference selections).

"We've been close and haven't got there yet, so hopefully this is the year."

The Fury believes it had the perfect warmup test on Sunday: Having to go to New Jersey and beat the defending champion Wildcats just to get to the Final Four.

How much did that pressure cooker help?

"Probably more than I appreciate," said Fury coach Frank Lofranco.

"It's a tough place to play and that's a quality side ... to get a win there says a lot about the way we're playing, and our push for a championship."

Said Parker: "I think it strengthened us. The theory that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger is kind of what we're going by. It was a hard weekend. To come out of it having beaten New Jersey, the defending champion, on their field ... it can't help but make us more confident."

Experience helps, too, and the Fury is surely old hands at this by now.

"We know the drill," said Lofranco. "It's just about finishing on a better note this year."

The Fury might be missing starting keeper Taryn Swiatek, who injured an ankle near the end of Sunday's match. Lofranco lists her as "questionable," but knows either Leisha Alcia -- a former W-League goalie of the year -- or Erin McNulty can get the job done.

Now it's just a matter of finishing.

"They've been bridesmaids too many times," said Fury owner John Pugh. "They want to win it all this time."


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