TORONTO, ON – Matchday has finally arrived. After months of players, coaches and staff circling Sept. 22 on their calendars, OUA soccer returns on Wednesday for the first time since 2019. While the season will look different in 2021 with smaller divisions and a reduced schedule, nobody is complaining as OUA soccer gets back onto the pitch.
The 2017 OUA champion Guelph Gryphons visit the Windsor Lancers to open the season on Wednesday before the rest of the programs get underway on the weekend.
Coming off a mediocre, mid-table season in 2019, the Brock Badgers could be the darkhorse to look for in the OUA’s 2021 season. Midfielder Erica D’Alesio might just have one season of experience, but she is the most established offensive player on the roster, having tallied three points in 2019.
While the roster is very young, as are most U SPORTS programs this season, the incoming recruits are very talented. Brazilian-Canadian Luisa Argento de Almeida brings a technical presence to the midfield and has a knack for getting passes behind opposition defence, something that could propel the Badgers to a solid season.
Player to watch: Luisa Argento de Almeida
The Guelph Gryphons will hold the honour of being the first visiting team in 2021 when they open up the OUA season on Sept. 22 vs the Windsor Lancers in the border city. After finishing only behind the Western Mustangs in the 2019 regular season, the Gryphons will be looking to return to their 2017 OUA title-winning glory.
Forward Kate Knaflec will be a thrilling player to watch this season in Guelph, as the university’s Rookie of the Year looks to build on her stellar U SPORTS All-Rookie Team campaign. Tagging along in attack is veteran striker Venessa Mazur, who scored six goals in 2019.
The Gryphons will be an exuberant attack g side in 2021, and with two fifth-year goalkeepers offering a solid last line of defence, an OUA title could be in the cards.
Player to watch: Kate Knaflec
The Waterloo Warriors are looking to rebound after a disappointing 2019 season that saw them finish with just three wins from 14 matches, boasting a mediocre attack at best. In 2021, they will hit the pitch without leading scorer Aaliyah Wilson, who has moved on. However, winger Ainsleigh Sedore will look to take another step and improve on her four-goal 2019 campaign.
An intriguing addition to the squad is second-year rookie Trinity Wambolt, who joined the team ahead of the 2020 season that never happened. “Trinity is an extremely quick and agile midfielder, and we are thrilled to have her join the team next season,” said head coach John O’Brien to Warriors Athletics. “She brings a lot to our lineup and will be a very impactful player for years to come.”
Player to watch: Ainsleigh Sedore
Laurier Golden Hawks
This Laurier roster is a long way from the 2013 OUA Gold Medallists, and it will probably get worse before it gets better. Like most programs that finished in the lower half of the table in 2019, Laurier, unfortunately, saw some of their best talents in Gagan Parhar and Mackenzie D’Andrade leave the athletic program. It means that, like many other schools, Laurier will hold an influx of younger players looking to find the right mix upfront. It can happen, but it will not be quick.
Although the team is extremely fresh-faced in 2021, third year forward Jennifer Borean and goalkeeper Stephanie Brooks bring a calming veteran presence at both ends of the field, as the Golden Hawks hope an expereinced spine can lead to a quick adjustment for their first-year players.
Player to watch: Jennifer Borean
The Mustangs managed to get all the way to the OUA Final Four in 2019 but needed to head home empty-handed following a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Unfortunately, just like many teams, the Mustangs now have to enter the season without a significant piece to their lineup. Goalkeeper Meghan Girardi held her 5th season during 2020-2021 and left Western, taking an OUA-leading Goals Against Average and the second-best save percentage in the league. For most teams, the holes to fill will be about putting the ball in the net; for Western, a major one now exists between the sticks.
Filing the void in goal will be Victoria, BC native Madeline Astridge, who arrives in London after playing with the Vancouver Island Wave, a reneowned program in Western Canada.
Player to watch: Madeline Astridge
This will likely be a rough season for the Windsor Lancers. The soccer program finished with just one win in 2019 and saw seven of the eleven goals they managed to score that season leave them, with Sophie Ferrazzo transferring to York. Midfielders Grace Melick and Jade Samping have found the back of the net but it will be a rough road offensively for Head Coach Daniel Mendonca’s side in 2021.
Player to watch: Jade Samping
Article by Ben Steiner and Richard Coffey