Ottawa, ON- For the first time ever, FISU hosted a World Cup of Football (soccer) and Canada was proudly represented. The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women travelled to China to compete in the inaugural edition of the tournament and made the world take notice.
The nation’s capital made the country proud on the international stage of women’s soccer when the Gee-Gees took home the title at the inaugural KELME 2019 FISU University World Cup. The tournament pitted eight of the world’s best women’s university soccer teams against each other over the course of 11 days in Jinjiang, China. As the 2018 U SPORTS national champions, the Gee-Gees were selected for a wild card berth to represent Canada, while other participants punched their ticket to China through continental qualifying tournaments.
Despite being classified as a “wild card” team, the women from Canada waltzed through the group stage and reached the semi-finals undefeated. Their offence glimmered, they scored multiple goals in every group stage match and their defense made statements, only conceding in the final game of group play, when they beat Thailand’s College of Asian Scholars 4-2. Their opening games finished 2-0 against China’s Donghua University and 3-0 over Russia’s Siberian Federal University.
The semi-finals presented a steeper challenge as they took on Beijing Normal University. Heading into the game against a side from the host country, one would expect that the crowd would be all for Beijing, but the Canadians had endeared themselves to the local crowds with their shining personalities (which should come as no surprise to anyone from here). Not only that, the girls from Ottawa had also made fans out of the other teams, as the international talents took note of their powerful play. So there were definitely cheers in the Canadian corner.
In what was probably one of the most nail-biting games these women will ever be a part of, Ottawa’s backline had the spotlight on them all night. While both sides had some moments of offensive brilliance, the last half hour of the game was marked by the goalkeeping of Margot Shore, who made some highlight reel saves to keep a clean sheet until the final whistle. There was no extra-time to be played so the birth in the final would be decided from the spot.
Every single kicker in a Gee-Gees jersey put her penalty into the back of the net and Shore made a key stop to send the Canadian side to the championship to face Brazil’s Paulista University.
The only thing perhaps more impressive than getting to the final was the dedication every woman on the roster showed to her studies simultaneous to soccer. Once they punched their ticket to the final, it was confirmed that they wouldn’t touchdown in Canada until December 3, when most of the team were due to begin their exam period on December 5. Adriane Devlin actually had to write a chemistry midterm from her hotel room. This meant that while in China, the women did have as many opportunities to explore as they would have hoped. They did get an adventure on Mount Qingyuan the day before the final match.
Post-mountain excursion, it was time to take on tournament favourite Paulista University for the title. While Ottawa did show their offensive abilities throughout the tourney, their goal total paled in comparison to their Brazilian opponents who racked up 25 goals in the four games heading into the final. The South American side had also yet to concede a goal…
The shutout streak ended within two minutes of the final kickoff as Mikayla Morton headed a corner cross into the back of the net to put the Gee-Gees up 1-0; the only goal they would need. Full-credit to the Brazilian squad as they relentlessly kept attacking and putting constant pressure on the Ottawa defence.
However, thanks to their incredible speed and strong technical play, Ottawa managed to keep Paulista largely away from their net. When the Brazilians did push through, the Canadian squad was given a few lucky breaks by the crossbar and some shots that barely sailed over the goal. The nerves did tick up ten fold once the three-minutes of stoppage time started. While Ottawa held their ground and did manage to burn precious time off the clock, Paulista ended up with a last minute opportunity that looked more dangerous than all the rest. As the Brazilian striker followed up on a downfield ball and appeared to be headed for a breakaway, tournament MVP Trinity Esprit blew down the field to catch up to her opponent and clear the ball to safety.
And just like that, The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees were world champions. Canada is proud of you ladies.