U SPORTS WSOC: Young Ontario Tech Ridgebacks could rise again in 2021

Vancouver, BC- It’s not a rebuild, just a new chapter. The Ontario Tech Ridgebacks women’s soccer team finished fifth in 2019 after a near half-decade of top-three finishes, but with competition postponed until at least 2021, the Ridgebacks have lots of time to find their way back to the pinnacle of OUA soccer.

On March 9, mere days before the world reached the screeching halt of COVID-19, the Oshawa based school announced Audra Sherman as the new head coach of the women’s soccer program.

Audra Sherman (Ontario Tech Ridgebacks)

Sherman’s introduction brought an immediate boost to the Ridgebacks program. She is one of only three women in Canada to hold a National “A” Coaching License and has experienced both the collegiate and professional games in Ontario. 

At the pro level, Sherman worked with the now-defunct Ottawa Fury FC of the NASL, where she held the roles of manager of community engagement and program development as well as serving as the head coach of the girls and women’s high performance program.

Although Sherman is missing out on her first competitive season coaching the Ridgebacks, she brings a breath of fresh air to a program hoping to quickly rise among the conference’s elite. 

The roster that Sherman is inheriting is a very young roster, and even though the 2020 OUA season has been cancelled in lieu of COVID -19, only three players on the roster are ineligible to return for 2021. While most of the roster will be unchanged next time the Ridgebacks hit the pitch, Sherman and her coaching staff have recruited a pair of established local players to help them in the years ahead. 

Tatum Pearce: Forward- Kanata, Ontario

In April, while the world was on hold, the Ridgebacks announced the commitment of  Kanata, Ont native Tatum Pearce as their first addition ahead of what was then going to be a 2020 season. The striker has spent the last four seasons with the West Ottawa Soccer Club, where she has found tremendous success on the local circuit. Through her time in youth soccer, Pearce was often the captain of her side, as she brings leadership to the young Ontario Tech roster.

“Tatum is a dynamic and dangerous attacking player with good composure in front of the goal,” said Sherman to Ridgebacks Athletics, “She will be an exciting player to watch and an excellent addition to our Ridgeback family.”

Shyanne Pierog-Taylor: Midfielder- Oshawa, Ontario

Women's Soccer
(Ontario Tech Ridgebacks Website)

Joining Pearce is Shyanne Pierog-Taylor, a defensive midfielder who won’t have to travel far to get to Ontario Tech. Growing up and playing soccer in the Durham Region, the 5’4” Pierog-Taylor joins the Ridgebacks after a number of years with the FC Durham Academy. 

Although she’s not the tallest of the bunch, Pierog-Taylor has established herself as a force in the midfield. As a defensive-minded player, her job has been to break up opponent attacks at the beginning of their buildup, and the Oshawa, Ont native has done this to near perfection over the last few seasons.

While she won’t play a competitive schedule in 2020, the incoming student-athlete has already played against women at the U21 level, and experience many her age don’t have before facing U SPORTS competition. 

Although Pearce and Pierog-Taylor won’t get the experience of playing university level soccer while balancing academics, their transition to the OUA should not be difficult following their successful youth careers.

Ontario’s re-opening plan does not yet allow for full matchplay to take place, however, if the situation continues improving, Sherman, alongside the two rookies could experience exhibition competition before games start to matter in 2021. 

2019 was a bit of a dip for the rebranded and young Ontario Tech Ridgebacks, but with Sherman at the helm,  a year of experience and an additional year of training, the Ridgebacks could very well be a force to be reckoned with in 2021.

Base Cover Photo: Ontario Tech Ridgebacks

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