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Vermont Green Victorious Over FC Laval In Inaugural Women’s Match

By on June 23, 2024 0 636 Views

Vermont Green FC has always been known for attracting some of the largest crowds in the USL2, however the anticipation for Saturday’s inaugural VGFC women’s match over FC Laval was one for the history books.

Over 3,000 fans from around New England, Ontario, and Quebec overflowed Burlington, Vermont’s Virtue Field for the debut of the women’s side that the club is looking into potentially expanding with a fully-fledged season. Coached by former USWNT member and World Cup Champion Sam Mewis, the Green were hoping to deliver their fans a night to remember as they hosted Ligue1 Québec’s FC Laval in a friendly.

Photo credit: Vermont Green FC

The Vermonters were facing an uphill battle, however. With the friendly having been announced earlier in the year, the club threw together a roster, staff, and operational plans within the span of a few months. Additionally, the squad of mostly collegiate-level players from the US and one star-in-the-making from Sheffield, UK, had only a three-day training camp to learn, gel, and prepare for their match against a well-rounded and well-respected Laval side.

Coach Mewis even touched on this post-game, describing the process of building this team:

“We had so much support from the club to the league to all our partners [but only] three days together and we spent most of that time just learning everyone’s names and trying to put a cohesive group together. We all wanted it to work and it did!”

Cohesive they were as once the referee’s first whistle blew the teams were locked in a back-and-forth stalemate for over two-thirds of the match.

Photo credit: Vermont Green FC

Laval’s experience was on display early as their mid- and offensive-line’s used short, quick passes to dance around Vermont’s fledgling starting eleven. Despite this, Vermont would prove to be just as powerful while on the counter attack. In the first half alone, the Green would test Laval’s Christine Gentille on at least 10 different occasions as the defence buckled against the speed of Neve Renwick.

Early on, it was clear that Renwick was a player to watch in this match as she demonstrated her exceptional acceleration, game sense, footwork, and shot skills, consistently applying pressure against Laval. However, she would not be successful in the first half, being denied again and again by keeper Gentille.

This is not to say that Laval did not have their own share of opportunities. Their best chance to break the draw came just after the half as Rosalie Dumont was presented with a beautiful cross into the penalty area, however a less-than-ideal shot would roll along the pitch and into the hands of VGFC’s Olivia Dubin.

In the end, Vermont Green go on to surely violate Burlington’s noise by-laws as the Brit, Neve Renwick, proceeded to break the deadlock in a masterful display of football prowess, developed during her time within the Sheffield United system.

A beautiful through ball by Emma Wennar found a bursting Renwick who breezed past the Laval defence. With no one but the keeper between her and history, a sure strike soared up and into the top right corner of the Laval net, marking Vermont Green’s first ever women’s goal in front of an adoring crowd.

Renwick described the feeling of scoring the first goal in club history as something that she could not process initially.

“My first thought was to go to [the camera man], celebrate, and then go to the fans right away.” She added post-game that the reception by the fans had been mind-blowing and that she knew she wanted to share every moment of the goal and win with them.

As the clock ticked on going into the game’s final 20 minutes, the pressure grew on the Laval roster to find glory themselves. This pressure took a toll as, with the game’s progression, the Quebecois defence became more uncoordinated with their passes, allowing for more turnovers.

However, the L1Q girls would slightly dampen the mood at Virtue Field as Laurie-Ann Moise would keep her side in the fight in the dying minutes of the match. An arching pass off of an offside kick by Laval’s new keeper Meilina Lynch would soar deep into the Vermont end, going off of the head of Eva Vespa and to the feet of an unguarded Moise. Elation would wash over the girls in purple as their last minute equalizer all but confirmed that this match would going to the penalty mark.

Moise was a proven leader on the pitch and this was reflected in her words post-game as she spoke about her tying goal. “This goal was only a pause in the game. We had to regroup and keep pushing with the same mentality until the last whistle. I’m glad I was surrounded by a team who wanted to keep pushing too and I’m glad they allowed me to score and tie it up.”

Laval’s scorer did additionally share some words regarding the state of women’s sports and her pleasure to see the support for Vermont’s new women’s team.

“I find it absolutely incredible how many people have come out to see this team play,” said Moise, “It gives me hope for all women’s sports and it’s so great to see how much heart and spirit there is for [Vermont Green].”

As the match was blown dead by the referee, the crowd was no longer sitting, anticipating with unease a game going to penalties.

Laval would take an early lead with Mika Mallory getting one in while counterpart Brenna Micheels sent it over the crossbar. With Laval’s Guerber sending it soaring herself a few rounds later, it would come down to a sixth shooter to determine the winner. VGFC keeper Dubin would channel her inner Stephanie Labbé with a stellar diving save on Maya Mallory, while the rest I leave for Roshann Purcell to tell:

With Purcell winning it for the home side, a field rush was most certainly in order as fans, media, and staff stormed the pitch to celebrate with both sides. Line-ups formed for autographs from the athletes, some of whom described being overwhelmed by the sheer number of people asking for their signature.

“This is the most autographs I’ve ever signed in my entire career and I love it! I love the interaction,” added Renwick.

So what’s next for the newly-minted Green women’s squad? For starters, Coach Mewis – who is a local having recently moved to the Green Mountain State – did express an interest in staying involved in some capacity with the club, whether that be as coach or in a different role. That sentiment was one echoed by club Co-Founder Sam Glickman.

“We’re so grateful that Sam Mewis came out to support this club and coach it,” said Glickman, “It’s exciting to see cause this Is the first step and we don’t know what the future holds, but we’re planning that and hoping for bigger and better!”

It was a joyous moment for both FC Laval and Vermont Green FC as win or lose, women’s sports came out on top.

He added that for now the club will be sticking to with the exhibition match formula and are presently reaching out to other teams at similar levels in the Northeast and in Quebec. The goal remains to launch a full club but “it will take some time to double our operations but we know our supporters will be there no matter what.”

[Author’s note: the interview with FC Laval’s no. 11 Laurie-Ann Moise was conducted in French and then translated from French to English for the purposes of this article.]

Header Image Photo credit: Vermont Green FC

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