TORONTO, ON – By the time the first ball gets kicked on Wednesday, September 22nd, it will have been 690 days from the last time an OUA soccer team took to the pitch. It was that cold Saturday on Gee-Gee Field in Ottawa over twenty-two months ago that the York Lions, powered by goals from Joselyn Gagliardi and Jessica Lush, took a 2-0 win over the Toronto Varsity Blues. The victory gave the Lions their first OUA gold medal and sent them to Victoria, BC, for the U SPORTS National Championships that the UBC Thunderbirds ultimately won.
Now, though, the OUA soccer season enters a new beginning; after seemingly a lifetime away from the pitch, 19 teams will battle each other across three brand new divisions will get the opportunity to compete for the next OUA title.
For a squad that finished 2-8-4 in 2019, the Ravens had a very dull season. The roster did not give up many goals, just 16 overall, but only potted 9 goals the entire season. Heading into 2021, it will be up to fourth-year goalie Sophie Elebracht to hold the fort in the net while offensively the Ravens will have to find a new leader as defender Youma Konate and midfielder Leah Chabot are the only returning Ravens who have found the back of the net in OUA play.
Ontario Tech Ridgebacks
The 2019 Ridgebacks likely felt one key message across the season, “home sweet home.” In the seven times OTU took to Vaso’s Field in 2019, they were 5-2-0, while on the road, they fell to 1-5-2. It left the Ridgebacks in the middle of the pack but looking in come playoff time on the outside. Ontario Tech will be looking to fourth-year mid-fielder Sarah Foster to put them over the top this time around. The Nursing student led the offence for Ontario Tech in 2019 with six goals and will be relied upon to provide at least that in 2021.
To put it kindly, RMC struggled in 2019. The program potted three goals all year and picked up just one point in a draw. The one positive to look for with the Paladins in 2021 would be the continued growth of striker Emily Bucci, the third year potted two of the three goals for RMC on the season.
2019 left the Queen’s Gaels wanting more. Despite finishing with a 12-0-2 record and a bye to the OUA quarterfinals, the Gaels spectacularly flamed out in a 3-0 loss to the Toronto Varsity Blues. They left a program waiting for its first OUA Gold since 2015 disappointed. The good news for the Gaels is that top of the table roster from the 2019 season still has some pieces left over. The most significant part being third-year striker Cecilia Way. With ten goals on the season, Way finished in third in OUA scoring and will be the centrepiece to the Gaels goals to reach the top of the table in 2021.
Ottawa Gee Gees
The Ottawa Gee-Gees may have only finished with the OUA Bronze Medal, but they were named the best team in the world in 2019, so it was not all bad. Two weeks following their bronze medal win over Western, the Garnet and Gray travelled to China for the 2019 FISU World Cup, where they swept the field to win the championship.
Heading into 2021, though, one major piece will be missing as the Gee-Gees try to begin their next chapter, and that is Mikayla Morton. Morton played two seasons in Ottawa and in 2019 finished with an OUA leading 17 goals on the year. Along with losing striker Emma Lefebvre, it will be a transition year for the Gee-Gees up front, opening the door for another team.
The Excalibur are yet another team that finished in the middle of the pack in 2019. The key for Trent in 2021 lies in the play of third-year forward Cherilyn Yeboah The biology student finished her rookie OUA season with six goals for the Excalibur and will have to lead their offence forward if they want any hope of competing with the giants of Ottawa, York and Queen’s
For the defending OUA Champions, the road back to the top is not going to be easy. Out for York since they last stepped on the pitch include, Jessica Lusch, Kiyani Johnson, Farkhunda Mutaj, and goalkeeper Courtney Davis. Perhaps the most notable name remaining would be Gagliardi who scored one of the goals in York’s 2-0 win over Toronto to take the gold, but for the Lions, it will be a reset year in 2021.