OTTAWA, ON – And then there were four.
After two months and 99 games, the OUA Women’s Soccer season two years in the making is finally nearing its end. Nineteen teams in September have given way to a final four fighting for a shot at an OUA championship and one of the two coveted spots at the U SPORTS National at the Health Recreation Complex in Sydney, NS on Nov. 18.
Before the ball kicks off on Saturday, here is a breakdown of the two matchups.
Ottawa Gee-Gees (#1 East) vs Queen’s Gaels (#2 East)
In a showdown of the top two teams in the OUA’s newly shrunken East Division, the Ottawa Gee-Gees take on the Queen’s Gaels in one half of the OUA Final Four.
How They Got Here: Ottawa
The Gee-Gees essentially cruised through the 2021 regular season. With a 9-0-1 record, the only time the Gee-Gees lost a shot at three points was an upset 1-1 tie vs the Carleton Ravens on Thanksgiving Monday that needed an 84th-minute goal from Angelina Gendreau to save the Gee-Gees from their first OUA regular-season loss since 2018.
A lot of the success for the Gee-Gees can be tied to their offence, with three Gee-Gees in the top-10 for OUA scoring, including Emma Lefebvre leading the league with 16 points (12 goals, four assists). At the same time, Cassidy Joslin in net finished fourth in the OUA, allowing just four goals in ten starts.
In their quarterfinal matchup vs the Ryerson Rams on Wednesday night, the Gee-Gees started strong with two first-half goals from Gendreau and Cassandra Provost and then they didn’t look back. Ottawa ended the night with 18 shots to Ryerson’s 5. The Gee-Gees look confident and ready to avenge their 2019 OUA semifinal loss to the York Lions.
How They Got Here: Queen’s
Their last national championship in 2011, their previous OUA championship in 2015, the Queen’s Gaels have been trying to get back to the promised land for a few seasons now, and 2021 might very well be their chance. Finishing 8-2 and second in the OUA East the Gaels are about as formidable an opponent that the Gee-Gees will face all season.
Like Ottawa, a lot of Queen’s strength is offensive. Christie Gray finished second in the OUA with ten goals and was followed up in the top ten by Jenna Matsukubo with seven and Cecilia Way with six. With Kirstin Tynan allowing only three goals in nine starts, the Gaels had a relatively whole season.
In their quarterfinal matchup vs the Guelph Gryphons, a pair of early goals from Jenna Matsukubo and Jenna Leslie gave the Gaels a 2-0 lead before the seven-minute mark that they would never relinquish.
The Gee-Gees and the Gaels only had one matchup this season on October 25th when the Gaels travelled to Matt Anthony Field. It was a wild ending as Alana Oriente tied the game at 1-1 in the 83rd minute for Ottawa before Angelina Gendreau won it in stoppage time. All this to say, grab some popcorn; this should be a wild 90 minutes.
Nipissing Lakers (#1 Central) vs Western Mustangs (#2 West)
In a more unique OUA matchup on the other side of the bracket, the Western Mustangs head all the way up to North Bay to take on the Nipissing Lakers.
How They Got Here: Nipissing
The Nipissing Lakers indeed took advantage of the shift in OUA divisions in 2021. Perpetually stuck for the last three seasons in either third or fourth behind Ottawa and Queen’s, the Lakers took a stranglehold on the OUA Central Division, winning by six points over Toronto (8-1-1). Nipissing has yet to win an OUA title in soccer, but with a division championship already under their belt for 2021, the odds look better than they ever have.
A massive portion of the Laker’s success in 2021 came in the net. Mykaela Volpe did not allow a goal across the 2021 season, with the Laker’s 3-1 loss to Toronto coming with Joy Simpson in the net. That meant Volpe put up eight clean sheets, by far the best in the OUA. If she can be on her game on Saturday, the Lakers could look unbeatable defensively.
On Wednesday night, the Lakers already looked at least partially unbeatable when they welcomed the 2019 OUA Champion York Lions into Nipissing Stadium in North Bay. Allowing just two shots on goal, the Lakers got all the offence they needed by a 74th-minute goal from Jennifer Milligan. A 1-0 win put the Lakers one step closer to that elusive first title.
How They Got Here: Western
The Western Mustangs have to feel as though one of these years has to be their right? The Mustangs are a team that has tasted OUA glory a few times. Six Women’s Soccer championship banners hang at Western, but the last was in 2004. It’s been 17 long years for the Mustangs, but after finishing tied for first in the OUA West Division, they sit one win away from a shot at breaking their 17-year streak.
For the Mustangs, the offence centred on Natalie Abbate with ten goals while in net, Samantha St Croix started seven games and carried five clean sheets for Western in 2021. It will take a strong performance from Abbate against the best goalie in the OUA in Volpe to help the Mustangs bust through.
In their quarterfinal matchup vs the Varsity Blues, a 39th-minute goal from Abbate provided all the offence the Mustangs needed to move forward in a 1-0 win.
So there it is two games, one afternoon, and four teams. Two national spots and a chance at OUA glory remain up for grabs. What happens next? That will be decided on the pitch…
There is no single-site OUA Final Four in 2021, as the higher seeds host the semifinals. Both matches will be available to stream for free on OUA TV.
COVER PHOTO: Queen’s Athletics