TORONTO, ON – It feels pretty incredible to be at this point.
It was a little over two years ago, on a cold Saturday afternoon in Ottawa that the York Lions took down the Ottawa Gee-Gees 2-0 to win the 2019 OUA Championship. Well here we are again, with the Queen’s Gaels and the Western Mustangs the only teams left standing. The Gaels in search of their first championship in six years, the Mustangs in seventeen. The 2021 OUA Final will be one to watch but before that happens, there are seventeen other teams that were not able to make it this far. Seventeen teams who came into the 2021 season with different levels of hope and ambition, only to fall short of the ultimate goal.
Let’s break those teams down.
RMC Paladins (0-9-1 | 7th OUA East)
The last time the RMC Paladins soccer program won a game in OUA regular season play was a 1-0 win over Trent on Oct. 7, 2018. It truly was a season in futility for a program that has not come within a sniff of a .500 record in over a decade. The high point of the Paladins’ season was easily their 1-1 tie against the Carleton Ravens on October 1st, where an early Emma Hawken goal and eight saves from Breanna Habinski helped RMC grind out a point. They proceeded to lose the rematch to Carleton 9-0 two days later and that sums up their season pretty well.
Algoma Thunderbirds (0-9-1 | 6th OUA Central)
To put it quite simply, the Algoma Thunderbirds are the worst program in the OUA. The biggest difference between Algoma and RMC is that RMC has had points in their history where they have been marginally more respectable (in 2012 they finished with a 5-10-1 record) but the Thunderbirds, in seven OUA seasons have one win to their name as a program. Leigha Nippard was easily the MVP of the season for the Thunderbirds because she and Mercedes Ryan were the only two players to score all year. Just like RMC, Algoma has a 1-1 tie to hang on to. There’s was on October 17th vs the Ryerson Rams thanks to an early Leigha Nippard PK goal. The Thunderbirds have one season left of Nippard and they have to hope they’ll find someone to fill the hole.
Brock Badgers (2-8-0 | 6th OUA West)
We said in our 2021 West Division preview that “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” and that was very not the case. The Badgers started slow, losing three straight and were never able to find any sort of rhythm in 2021. 1st-year striker Sabrina Bisante provided some hope for the future though for the Badgers as she tied for the team lead with a pair of goals in her first season.
Trent Excalibur (2-7-1 | 6th OUA East)
After a 2019 season that saw them miss the playoffs by two points, 2021 was a step back for the Excalibur. It was a true example of an early-season mirage. A pair of wins over RMC to start the season gave the Excalibur faithful false only to see them lose six straight games including back-to-back 5-0 shutouts at the hands of Queen’s and Ottawa. There were a few bright spots, fourth-year midfielder Violet Hipkin picked up three goals for Trent but after another season outside of the playoffs in Peterborough, that’s little consolation.
Laurentian Voyageurs (2-7-1 | 5th OUA Central)
The big problem for Laurentian heading into 2021 was upfront. The loss of Mia De Gasperis thinned out an already weak front-line and the Voyageurs needed some new faces to step up to have any chance in the OUA Central. That did not happen. Amanda Cuthbert certainly stepped up, three goals from the fourth year beat her 2019 total by one but also represented 60% of the total goals on the season for Laurentian. One of the biggest problems? No ball movement. The Voyageurs did not register a single assist in 2021 but they will need an assist from somewhere to gift them some offensive weapons if they want to avoid battling Algoma for last in 2022.
Carleton Ravens (2-4-4 | 5th OUA East)
The Ravens season has to be chalked up as a disappointment. The only wins they managed to pick up in 2021 were a 9-0 over RMC (which barely counts) and a 4-1 win over Trent when they were already eliminated. Thanks to that 9-0 win, it masks the fact the Ravens struggled to put the ball in the net with just eight goals in the nine other OUA games. Long-time goalkeeper Sophie Elhebracht only started six games on the season, giving way to first-year keeper Chloe Lachance-Soulard. Making it clear that in the eyes of Ravens coach Dom Oliveri, the next chapter of Ravens soccer is here.
Windsor Lancers (3-5-2 | 5th OUA West)
That was not as bad as it looked like it would be for Windsor heading into the season. The program certainly struggled to find a leader offensively with six different players scoring the six goals on the year but thanks to inspired play by third-year goalkeeper Lauren Gellner the Lancers not only won three games but picked up three clean sheets. Windsor only has Gellner for one more season but if they can get the right offensive pieces in place, a lower playoff seed is not out of the question for 2022.
Ontario Tech Ridgebacks (4-6-0 | 4th OUA East)
Home was not where the heart was for the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks in 2021. After going 7-1 at home in 2019 the Ridgebacks only managed to go 2-3 in 2021. It was a season on the whole where the Ridgebacks probably feel like they had a missed opportunity. Sarah Foster came to play again, after six goals in 2019 she potted five in 2021 but Ontario Tech struggled to find secondary offence. If the Ridgebacks want to challenge the top teams in their division in Ottawa and Queen’s (who they lost to by a combined score of 8-2 in 2021) they’ll need some new blood offensively especially with Foster leaving.
Waterloo Warriors (3-3-4 | 4th OUA West)
The Warriors have to be disappointed in 2021. Looking to improve on a dismal 2019, Waterloo basically ended 2021 in the same place, the lower middle of the OUA West. Perhaps the biggest disappointment goes to Ainsleigh Sedore. The winger had four goals in 2019 but was unable to find the net once for Waterloo in 2021, helping to hamper a weak warrior attack. A positive though for the Warriors came in net as they finished with eight goals for but a postivie goal differnetial thanks to the work of Morgan Berg. The third year keeper in her fourth year at Waterloo started all ten games in 2021, finished with seven goals allowed and two clean sheets. If she stays, the Warriors will need offence to compliment her in 2022 or they’ll be stuck in the mud again.
Laurier Golden Hawks (4-4-2 | 3rd OUA West)
The Golden Hawks were a program in transition in 2021 after seeing veterans Gagan Parhar and Mackenzie D’Andrade leave the program. The overall year can thus be deemed a relative success. First-year Sasha Marikano led the team with four goals followed by three goals from first-year Jyanessa Sealy. It was not enough to get the Golden Hawks into the playoffs in 2021, but the nucleus of a future strong core has started to form at Laurier.
McMaster Marauders (5-3-2 | 4th OUA Central)
What a frustrating end to 2021 for the Marauders. They were right there until the end of their final game with a chance to get past the Ryerson Rams but a 79th minute goal from Skylar Sheehan-Alleyene gave Ryerson the win and the final playoff spot. There were still a lot of bright spots for McMaster in 2021. 1st-year Joelle Chackal finished with four goals to lead the team on the season including a two-goal game in Mac’s 2-1 win over Toronto on Oct. 10. Fourth-year keeper Jayashree Pathak provided stability in net with a pair of shutouts as well. There is growth potential in the McMaster program after 2021 and that is progress.
Ryerson Rams (5-3-2 | 3rd OUA Central)
They barely snuck into the playoffs but it ultimately does not matter how you get there it just matters if you did. Coming off their first OUA playoff win ever in 2019 the Rams were looking to improve in 2021 and they got mixed results. Like many teams, offence was hard to come by in 2021, as 2019 leading scorer Brooke Pearson only got into three games on the year. It was third-year Kiera Kent who found the back of the net three times for Ryerson to lead the team. It was 5th-year keeper Elisa Lapadula in the net that provided the stability for the Rams. With Lapadula starting every game, the Rams only lost by more that one goalie once in the regular season in a 4-0 loss to Nipissing. The Rams ended up falling 2-0 in the Quarterfinals to a stronger Ottawa Gee-Gees team but it was a reasonably successful year for the blue and gold.
York Lions (6-3-1 | 3rd OUA East)
The York Lions will not get to defend their 2019 Championship. After finishing in third in the OUA East division the Lions headed up to Nipissing for a quarterfinal match with the Lakers but fell 1-0 thanks to a 74th minute goal from Jennifer Milligan. The fact that their three losses were against Ottawa and Queen’s emphasizes that the Lions were truly the third horse in the OUA East race in 2021 but they still had some strong performances. Jotam Chouhan. and Vanessa Salvaggio finished tied for seventh in the league with three assists each while Patricia Vrysellas picked up a pair of shutouts. With so many names from their championship season gone, it was difficult to expect a repeat from the Lions in 2021 but they still put up a respectable showing.
Toronto Varsity Blues (6-3-1 | 2nd OUA East)
The Toronto Varsity Blues were not as good as their record showed in 2021. A 2-3-1 record vs Ryerson, McMaster and Nipissing speaks to a team that feasted on the bottom of the division but struggled against the rest and it showed in a 1-0 loss to Western in the quarterfinal where they only generated four shots. It wasn’t all bad news, Hannah Harkin had a fantastic introduction to the OUA with nine goals and an assist to lead the Blues. Heading into 2022 though, if the Blues can’t find a way to beat the stronger teams like they do the weaker ones, it will all be for naught.
Guelph Gryphons (6-2-2 | 2nd OUA West)
The Gryphons may have been tied with division winners Western but despite similar 6-2-2 records they were clearly the weaker of the two. The Gryphons were unable to string more than two strong games in a row winning games in three groups of two. Offensively it was a disappointing season for Katherine Knafelc who after a seven point season (5 goals, 2 assists) in 2019 was only able to get two goals in 2021. There were definitely positives for the Gryphons, rookie Olivia Rizakos picked up a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Windsor and keeper Brooke Davidson had four shutouts in the net for Guelph. It all was for nothing in the playoffs though as the Gryphons travelled to Richardson Stadium in Kingston, fell behind 2-0 before the seven-minute mark and never came close to threatening Queen’s. There was some growth for the Gryphons in 2021 but also some struggles and for a team that was perhaps aided by a weak division, they will need more in 2022.
Nipissing Lakers (8-1-1 | 1st OUA Central)
The Lakers have to be heartbroken after how their 2021 season ended. The program from North Bay finally looked like this would be their year for success, with a strong offence and the best keeper in the league but it was all for nothing after a 1-0 loss in penalty kicks to the Western Mustangs in the semifinal. The Lakers have to be proud after this season though. with Mykaela Volpe leading the league with eight clean sheets and three Lakers in the top-10 of OUA scoring it was a banner year for the squad from North Bay. Unfortunately, such is the was of sports that banner years don’t always end in banners.
Ottawa Gee-Gees (9-0-1 | 1st OUA East)
This does not feel like a team that should be here. The Gee-Gees came off of their 2019 FISU World Title and ran roughshod on the OUA East in 2021, with a 1-1 tie to Carleton on Thanksgiving Monday as their only blemish. Emma Lefebvre paced the OUA with 12 goals and 16 points. It originally looked like Lefebre was not going to return in 2021 but she did and helped the Gee-Gees to a league-leading 42 goals. After cruising past Ryerson in the quarterfinals Queen’s was a tough matchup but it just felt like Ottawa was destined for the final. That was until a pair of goals in the 53rd and 57th minute from Jamie Foot and Cecilia Way helped Queen’s to a 2-0 win and sent the crowd at Matt Anthony Field home stunned.
Where do the Gee-Gees go from here? It’s hard to say, there wasn’t much they did wrong in 2021, when it came down to it they were just unable to deliver.