PREVIEW: Breaking down OUA East Women’s Soccer in 2022

VANCOUVER, BC – OUA Women’s soccer is bound for an intriguing season in 2022. After schools split into four smaller divisions in 2021, the two-division setup returns for 2022, as several schools see a championship within their potential. 

In the east, there’s the defending OUA champion Queen’s Gaels, the 2019 U SPORTS bronze medalists Toronto Varsity Blues, and the ever-competitive uOttawa Gee-Gees. Add the seven other teams into the mix, and the division is bound to bring excitement. 

Playoff action kicks off on Oct. 26, with the first round of play. The quarterfinals (Oct. 29) and semifinals (Nov. 2) will follow before the final two teams compete for their championships on Nov. 5.

Let’s look at how the teams fare in the 2022 OUA soccer season. 

Carleton Ravens

(Calreton Athletics)

The Carleton Ravens women’s soccer program has never been the strongest in the OUA, but 2022 could offer them a chance to improve on an underwhelming few years. In 2021, the program won four matches, amassing 10 points. However, they kept their goal differential at -1, showing they can stay in games and compete in the OUA. 

Chloe Doherty led the program in the attacking end last season with six goals in nine games and wil be back as a senior in 2022 as she looks to cap off her university career on a high note. Additionally,  Whitby, Ont. native Lauren Illman will look to continue her strong play after scoring five goals as a rookie. 

Head Coach Dominic Oliveri welcomes a group of recruits, highlighted by Calgary-born striker Brooklyn Stephen. The latter comes to the Ottawa program after a professional tryout with Real Oviedo. Alongside Stephen is 2019 New Brunswick Female Player of the Year Chloé Doiron, who could revitalize the Ravens’ attack.

Key Player: Chloe Doherty

Laurentian Voyageurs 

(Laurentian Voyageurs Athletics)

The Laurentian Voyageurs are far from title contenders in the OUA, but improving on just two wins in 2021 is certainly in the cards for the Sudbury school. Led by head coach Brian Ashton, the Voyageurs only scored five times last season, a total they will need to improve upon to see any success. 

Fourth-year midfielder Amanda Cuthbert will be heavily relied upon after leading the team in scoring in 2021 but she won’t be able to do all the work herself. None of the Laurentian forwards scored last season, which will have to change in 2021. 

The most straightforward shift could be improved, finishing from forwarding Cass Armstrong, who generated nine shots on target in 2021, and consistently linked up well with Cuthbert. If Armstrong can score at a higher clip, the Voyageurs could see some close games end in their favour. 

Key Player: Amanda Cuthbert

Nipissing Lakers

(Nipissing Lakers Athletics)

The Nipissing Lakers will have high expectations in 2022, championship hopes, really. After falling to the Western Mustangs in 2021, the Lakers come back this season with an exceptional group seeking to take a few steps further. 

Last season was nearly perfect for the Lakers; they won eight of ten games and only lost once. Not only does their division- record stand out, but they scored 29 goals (3rd in conference) and allowed just three (best in OUA). 

With much of the same group returning, they are championship contenders, to be sure. 

Head coach David Bitonti will have to adjust in 2022; however, as U SPORTS All-Canadians goalkeeper Mykaela Volpe and defender Abby Wroe have graduated. Still, there is quality throughout the compete at an elite level. 

Look for Jessica Emerton, Ashley Mlinarec, Jennifer Milligan, and League 1 Ontario standout Rylee Traicoff to play significant roles this season. Traicoff, mainly, is coming off a pressure-packed summer with Electric City FC in League 1 and will be prepped for the fall OUA season. 

Meanwhile, Emerton led Nipissing in goals last season with seven, while Mlinaric and Milligan combined for 11 assists through the regular season campaign. 

There’s a lot to like about the Lakers group this season, and it could be good enough to head to the U SPORTS National Tournament in Quebec City. 

Key Player: Jennifer Milligan

Ontario Tech Ridgebacks

(Ontario Tech Athletics)

The Ontario Tech Ridgebacks were far from the best defensive team in 2021 but could see improvement this year after just missing out on the playoffs. Head Coach Audra Sherman has many returning players this year and an effective system that wasn’t far off pushing the team above the line in 2021. 

On the veteran side, no name is more important than captain and midfielder Michele Dell’Aquila, who graduated, but extended her studies at the school, allowing her to return for 2022. After appearing in just seven games in 2022, the Thornhill, Ont. native could feature more but will bring invaluable leadership to a group trying to take the next step. 

Leading goalscorer Sarah Foster also returns for her fourth season of eligibility and will look to generate more chances after finishing on five of her 15 shots last season. Aside from her, look to rookie Sara Wylie, who comes to Ontario Tech from the Ontario Women’s Soccer League, where she scored 15 times in 10 matches with North York. 

Like other OUA teams, many players are coming off a summer season which they played together with League 1 Ontario’s Simcoe County Rovers, who made a playoff run before falling short of the final. Sherman is the sporting director at the Rovers, and had 10 2022 players feature in their summer roster. 

There’s a lot of promise in this side, especially coming off the first season of Simcoe County in League 1, and the Ridgebacks are poised to be the darkhorse story of the 2022 OUA soccer season. 

Key Player: Jordan Tortolo

uOttawa Gee-Gees

(uOttawa Athletics)

The uOttawa Gee-Gees are still the defending world champions. After winning the FISU University World Cup in 2019, no tournament has taken place to strip them of their crown. However, the capital city’s school is a much different side than they were then. 

In 2022, the Gee-Gees won’t be able to turn to Emma Lefebvre or Mikayla Morton as their main linchpins; rather, it’s a younger group for the school to regain their stature among U SPORTS’ and the world’s elite. 

In attack, look for second-year forward Cassandra Provost to improve on her eight goals from 2021. Her consistent runs in behind defences proved critical to the Gee-Gees last season, and she comes into 2022 on a run of good form, having finished second in League 1 Canada with the PLSQ’s AS Laval. 

Aside from Provost, sophomore Sadie Sider-Echenberg comes into this season after a two-week training camp with the Canada Soccer U20s ahead of the FIFA U20 World Cup. While she didn’t crack the final Canadian squad, her play from her rookie season caught the eye of the Canadian camp.

There’s a lot of offensive talent for the Gee-Gee, and they will undoubtedly continue to be one of the country’s top-scoring teams after scoring 39 times in 2021. At the backend, however, third-year Trinity Esprit will lead a backline that hopes to continue the form they showed in 2021, where they conceded just six times. 

For uOttawa, much of the group that beat the world in 2019 may not be there anymore, but the OUA and U SPORTS championship hopes remain as much a focus as ever. 

Key Player: Sadie Sider-Echenberg

Queen’s Gaels

(Robin Kassem/Queen’s Gaels Athletics)

The defending OUA Champions come into 2022 with many of the same players from their OUA title, but they will also have to adjust to a few key pieces that have moved on. 

Most notably, Christy Gray, who scored 10 of 41 goals for the league’s top attack, won’t be at Richardson Stadium this year — she’s playing professionally for RIK Karlskoga in Sweden. However, while her tally was exceptional, there are still 31 goals that came from the rest of the roster; that’s more than all but one other team in 2021. 

Taking up the offensive slack and star power in Cecilia Way, who had played alongside Gray but will now be relied on more individually to finish her opportunities. Way is a fast, dynamic forward that has perplexed defences throughout the conference, and she’ll look to continue that this season, albeit with some new faces around her. 

If head coach Dave McDowell continues with two forwards or an attacking midfielder, keep an eye on Jenna Matsukubo as well, who finished second in team scoring last year with nine goals. If she plays alongside Way in attacking spaces, the two could be one of the country’s most potent attacks. 

In midfield, look for further success from Sophie Miranda, recently chosen as player of the year with Victoria Highlanders in League 1 BC during the summer season. She started just one match in 11 appearances last year for Queen’s but could be bound for a breakout season in her second year of OUA soccer. 

Aside from Miranda, forward Raya Athwal, and goalkeeper Kirstin Tynan rejoin the Gaels after a summer season in League 1 BC with the TSS Rovers. Another outstanding note from the summer is a Team Canada experience for Devon Eisen, who played at the Maccabiah Games. 

There is a ton to like about the Queen’s Gaels this season, and there is every reason to believe that the Kingston, Ont. school could repeat as OUA champions. 

Key Player: Cecilia Way

RMC Paladins

(RMC Paladins)

One thing that can’t be faulted at RMC is the effort of their student-athletes. While the school may not attract the top, potential professional-level talent of its OUA counterparts, their efforts in games and throughout a season is among the best. 

After conceding 41 goals in 2021, the RMC Paladins will look to improve on their defensive record in 2022 while also looking to score more than two times throughout the season. 

A championship or playoff berth may not be within the realistic dreams of RMC. Still, a successful season could be scoring more than three goals for the first time since 2017 and avoiding double-digit losses like their 12-0 defeat to uOttawa in 2021. 

Key player: Sarah Nissan

Toronto Varsity Blues

(Ben Steiner)

After finishing the 2019 season on a high note with a national bronze medal in Victoria, the U of T Varsity Blues have been through a transition period. However, they could be title contenders in 2022, after Alliance United, a League 1 Ontario club with many current players, were runner-ups in Ontario’s top semi-pro league. 

Led by head coach Angelo Cavaluzzo, Alliance finished with the bronze medal in League 1 Canada, beating BC’s Varsity FC, featuring many UBC players, one of Canada’s top programs. While several players from Alliance will help, the group is strong with the rest of the Varsity Blues too. 

They finished with a 6-3-1 record last season, with first-year- forward Hannah Harkin leading the team offensively, with the fifth most shots on target in the OUA, while scoring nine goals. In addition to Harkin, Toronto will turn to fellow second-year Anna Yeoman on the wings and veteran Miranda Badovinac in the middle. 

Aside from those who featured with Alliance, Cassie Chan made her way back to B.C. to play with TSS Rovers, who narrowly missed out on the first-ever League 1 BC Final. 

While there’s calmness in 10 spots on the pitch, it will be a transition year in net as the Varsity Blues approach a season without veteran goalkeeper Levanta Staggolis, who graduated last season. However, they have options, including Vancouver’s Maddy Nardin and Oakville’s Maddy Babulal. 

There are legitimate expectations for the Varsity Blues to be one of the contending teams come the end of October, and on paper, they have the quality to do so — they just have to go and do it.

Key Player: Hannah Harkin


(Ben Steiner)

No longer the Ryerson Rams, the now TMU Women’s Soccer team come into 2022 with hopes of taking the next step after two straight exits in the OUA quarterfinals at the feet of the uOttawa Gee-Gees. 

This year, assistant coach John Yacou will lead the group as head coach Natalie Bukovec is on parental leave. That change on the sidelines could allow TMU to approach the game differently, potentially pushing onto the playoffs and past the quarterfinal. 

TMU struggled to score goals last season, which doesn’t look like it will change much in 2022. Defender Keira Kent led the way with three goals, and she will be back this year, but the side will have to get more from their forwards, including Jade Vyfhuis and Shea Jeffery-Novak, who showed promise in attacking spaces in their over 350 minutes played each. 

Stability in net will be an intriguing question for TMU, with veteran Elise Lapadula graduating in 2021. While she played every minute last season, look for fourth-year goalkeeper Alannah Musolino to start in goal, coming off a summer season and nine matches with Oakville Blue Devils B, where she allowed seven goals against. 

There will be a fair bit of cohesion for TMU this year, with many players spending time in League 1 Ontario and many with Oakville’s B squad; however, many signs point to a similar season as they’ve achieved in the past. 

Key Player: Shea Jeffery-Novak

Trent Excalibur

The Trent Excalibur are anything but championship contenders. They tied the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks for the worst defence in the division last season, conceding over twice per game for 26 goals. While they are far better than the RMC Paladins conceding 41 times, there is not a lot of positivity surrounding championship talk for Trent. 

Midfielder Violet Hipkin is heading into her final year of eligibility. After scoring three times and adding an assist in 2021, she will again be relied upon to create for Trent. However, she is not alone in players to watch — keep an eye on Mariah Shaw, who spent the summer playing with Electric City FC in their first-ever League 1 Ontario campaign. 

It won’t be easy for Trent to improve this season, especially with just one game against RMC, the lone side worse than them last year; however, head coach Stuart Robertson will hope his team can stay in most matches and remain competitive throughout the season. 

Key Player: Violet Hipkin

OUA East Standings Predictions:

  1. uOttawa Gee-Gees
  2. Nipissing Lakers
  3. Queen’s Gaels
  4. Toronto Varsity Blues
  5. Ontario Tech
  6. TMU
  7. Carleton Ravens
  8. Trent Excalibur
  9. Laurentian Voyageurs
  10. RMC Paladins

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