TORONTO, ON – The Ontario University soccer season started later than the other three conferences in U SPORTS, but it follows a similar trend after two weeks of action. With two years of graduates making way for new, fresh-faced recruiting classes, the OUA soccer picture is much murkier than in years past.
For the first time in a long time, there is absolute parity in U SPORTS and OUA soccer, and although the traditional favourites might struggle, there is nothing more entertaining than tight games and upsets.
Here are four things we learned from Week 2 in OUA men’s and women’s soccer.
WSOC: York Lions puts worries to rest
If there were any doubts about the York Lions after their spotty start to the season, they will be pretty well evaporated.
With a tight win against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks to open the season, followed by a 4-0 loss to the 2019 FISU World Cup Champion uOttawa Gee-Gees, the Lions were close to finding themselves in an unfamiliar position, as one of the struggling teams in the OUA.
With a rebuilt roster since the 2019 OUA Championship run, the Lions put their worries to bed, as they played the Ridgebacks off the park on Thursday night, beating their GTA foes 4-0.
Midfielder Maia Torelli is quickly establishing herself as one of the key players on the Lions roster, after taking two shots in the opening match in Oshawa, she had a breakout game at her home debut, scoring twice.
“It’s a challenge, it’s a lot different than the club league I played in before,” said Torelli on her adjustment to the OUA level. “I’m just glad it [a goal] finally happened, we had a lot of exhibition games and I wasn’t scoring so I’m happy it happened tonight.”
Torelli played most of the match of the wing, showing her qualities cutting in from wide areas. However, the Woodbridge native shifted centrally to start the second half and got a goal on one of York’s few opportunities behind the defence.
“I expect it every day from her, standards have to be high,” said York Head coach Carmine Isaaco on Torelli’s performance. “This should be par for the course for her without many exceptions”
The Lions take on RMC next week, with a golden opportunity to keep their form going, heading into integral matches against Queen’s and another against uOttawa.
WSOC: Rams make history vs Toronto
The Rams women’s soccer program began in 1986, and since then the Downtown Toronto Derby has only finished in one way: Toronto getting a point with a win or draw.
On Saturday, the Rams prevailed over Toronto for the first time in program history. Coming off a Week 1 loss to the same Varsity Blues side, the Rams rebounded on their home pitch with a 2-1, come from behind win.
The 2021 season could be a start of a new era for the Rams, who had a program-best season in 2019. Head Coach Natalie Bukovic has had to adjust her squad this season, considering graduation and student-athletes complying with OUA policy. However, the former McMaster Marauder, turn coach, has done a stellar job through two games.
This season, the Rams are looking to be a real contender through two matches against one of the conference’s finest programs and games against the Nipissing Lakers next weekend, who they knocked out in the 2019 OUA quarterfinals.
MSOC: Laurentian pull off an upset v McMaster
The McMaster Maraduers are supposed to be one of the better teams in the OUA this season, challenging the likes of Ryerson and Toronto for divisional supremacy. However, while they looked the part in big wins over Algoma in Week 1 and a 6-0 win against Laurentian on Friday, things changed when they headed north to Sudbury.
Once a feverish attack, the Maraduers failed to muster any type of offence, setting the table for Laurentian to cash in on an invaluable opportunity. With the match 0-0 in the final minutes, Laurentian senior Ryan Jovanovic scored in the 88th minute to put the Voyageurs up a goal and eventually seal the three points.
For a Voyageurs team that had struggled out of the gate, albeit expectedly, it was a great moment that could push them on to threaten other top teams. In Canada West, fans have been treated to incredible, never before seen parity in men’s soccer, and with Laurentian’s victory, that trend could be making its way to the OUA.
Laurentian could very well string together some positive results, as they take on Algoma next week, a program destined to finish with the OUA’s Wooden Spoo, better known as last place. McMaster now looks ahead to Wednesday and a critical clash with the U of T Varsity Blues on their home turf.
MSOC: Guelph Gryphons show their depth vs Western
For the last several seasons, the Guelph Gryphons’ fortunes have laid at the feet of Alexis, an incredible midfielder who has put in stellar performances throughout his Gryphons career, including an OUA East Player of the Year Campaign in 2019.
This past week showed that the Gryphons are more than just Alex Zis, as Luca Doros, Parmeet Johal, and Gray Yates scored three goals through two games against the Western Mustangs. While the offensive contributions came from different parts of the roster, the standout factor was the defensive solidity that the Gryphon’s featured.
In 2019, the Gryphons allowed 12 goals in 14 matches, the fourth-worst defensive record in the OUA. Although the Mustangs are not the same offensive powerhouse as a Carleton, shutting down a talented young team in Western is admirable.
Three goals in two matches shouldn’t be enough to get six points, but that’s what the Gryphons did with two clean sheets from their stingy backline and the goalkeeping tandem of Sam Spoelstra and Svyatoslav Artemenko.
With three straight shutouts against Windsor and Western, the Gryphons now look ahead to a pair of games against the Waterloo Warriors, who have scored six goals in two matches.
Cover Photo: Laurel Jarvis (Guelph Gryphons)