‘Always a bridesmaid, never the bride’ is a phrase most women despise. The veteran players on the Ottawa Fury, unfortunately, know that all too well having advanced to the W-League Championship tournament the past four years only to finish fourth, third, second and second respectively.
Hamel has been a part of three missed Fury titles (Randy Smith)This year though, the Vancouver Whitecaps and New Jersey Wildcats sides that have gotten in Ottawa’s way of winning a championship are not in the playoff mix and the Fury are, for once, the regular season champion heading into the postseason. Players like Kelly Parker, Leah Robinson, Marie-Eve Nault and Annie Hamel know they can’t relax and expect to cruise through the conference playoffs to another Final Four, however, given the strength of the teams not only in their division, but the new powers that have arisen in the Northeast Division in the form of expansion Jersey Sky Blue, led by former Wildcats head coach Charlie Naimo and a number of the same players, and the Washington Freedom, the legacy of the former WUSA club. The two clubs, between them, only had three losses on the year.
And even if they reach the W-League Championship, the clubs who will advance out of the Central and Western Conferences could pose a significant threat. Minnesota comes into the postseason with just one loss and previous playoff experience under their belt while Atlanta and Richmond both boast players of international pedigree. And out west, the expansion San Diego Sunwaves and Seattle Sounders are in the playoffs because they locked out the juggernaut Whitecaps and star American striker Tiffeny Milbrett.