TORONTO, ONT – After a week of Canada West play, OUA teams got to join in on the party. as U SPORTS soccer kicked off in Ontario for the 2022 season. Although some schools haven’t yet started their seasons, the opening weekend bega to show who the contenders, and potentially pretenders, may be this fall.
There are the uOttawa Gee-Gees and their ever-growing presence in the elite, as well as a Toronto Varsity Blues side that looked lacklustre one day before picking up an invaluable win the next. Those takeaways, though, only skim the surface in the OUA this week.
49 Sports takes a look at soccer in the OUA in “The Kickabout” for Ontario’s opening weekend.
WOMEN: Ottawa starts a lengthy season with pair of Toronto wins
An OUA classic showcased on the opening weekend, but it wil go down as more of an example of Ottawa’s quality rather than how close Toronto is to contending. The Gee-Gees, who will play in the FISU World Cup later this year, looked in mid-season form as they trampled over the Toronto Varsity Blues 4-1 on a burning Saturday afternoon in Toronto.
Ottawa came out from the start of the match with a feistiness, paired with an understanding of how they want to play in a significant season. Trinity Esprit controlled the midfield, but the team was quick to make tackles and not give Toronto defenders any space on the ball.
The Gee-Gees’ high press got the ball to Cassandra Provost in the third minute, who made no mistake sliding it past Toronto’s Maddy Nardin. Not long later, the press turned on again as Maya Smith finished to make it 2-0.
Ottawa added another two before Hannah Chown scored a last-minute free kick for the Varsity Blues for a 4-1 final score.
With Toronto looking at an uphill battle within 12 minutes, the side shifted to three-at-the-back but quickly overwhelmed, conceding a penalty and another goal off a midfield tackle.
Ottawa’s ability to retain the ball, and create passing opportunities, let alone chances, stood above Toronto through the first half and coerced three of Toronto’s starting four defenders into yellow cards.
Toronto, however, stepped up their play in the second half, even as head coach Angelo Cavalluzzo pushed his side forward in hopes of more attacking strength. Mainly, providing deeper support to striker Lindsay Bosveld seemed to pay off, as Toronto continued building.
Although Toronto’s free-kick goal from Chown didn’t matter in the final result, it was a culmination of the Varsity Blues showing their ability to compete. However, what Ottawa did to see out the match was a testament to their approach to this season.
“Thats a surprise start to the OUA season, we didn’t expect that, and I don’t think Toronto expected it either,” head coach Steve Johnson told 49 Sports. “Difficult conditions today; it was really hot. You can see lapses in concentration on both sides.”
Ottawa continued their perfect start on Sunday, dominating the TMU Bold with Provost adding a brace in a 5-1 victory. Throughout the two Toronto matches, Ottawa showed just how dominant they might be this season.
It’s a challenging year as well for uOttawa, set to play not only OUA action but also an international FISU event in Mexico before representing Canada at the FISU World Cup in China, all while striving for an OUA and U SPORTS banner.
Returning to their home pitch, the Gee-Gees look to continue their strong form when they host the defending OUA Champion Queen’s Gaels on Friday.
WOMEN: Cecilia Way sparks Queen’s attack after a disappointing draw
When the Queen’s Gaels walked off the pitch after a 0-0 draw with the Carleton Ravens, there were reasons for some concern for the defending OUA Champions. Could the team continue their electric attack without mainstay striker Christy Gray this season?
On Saturday, Cecilia Way and the rest of the Gaels answered that question — yes. 6-2 over the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks.
Although the Ridgebacks may not be title contenders, Queen’s found their stride and dominated the pace of the game, as Way and Katie Strickler led the charge with two goals a piece, coming from different areas of play.
Way’s free-kick goal for Queen’s 4th on the day was a highlight. Meanwhile, fellow British Columbian Sophie Miranda fired a long-range shot for the Gaels’ 5th.
“I have been practicing that,” Way told Queen’s Athletics about the free-kick goal. “So when I got that in, I was very excited.”
Even without many of the contributing members from last season, the Gael’s victory over Ontario Tech was essential to invigorate one of 2021’s best attacks while setting them up nicely for a heavyweight clash with the uOttawa Gee-Gees next weekend.
MEN: York Lions out to a fiery start
The York Lions may still be adjusting to life without talisman striker Dieu Merci Yuma, but it didn’t seem to matter this weekend, as they scored nine times ad kept two clean sheets in dominant performances against the Windsor Lancers.
Led by head coach Carmine Issacco, the ever-deep Lions dominated the opening match midweek en route to a 6-0 win, highlighted by a brace from Isaac Bradbury, an NCAA transfer, and a first-touch long-distance shot from Pedro Aparicio.
On Sunday, in a 3-0 win over the Lancer at home, it was less about the goals but more about the minor adjustments and depth showcased by the York side.
Soji Olatoye drew a penalty and continued to be one of the conference’s most electrifying players while challenging both wings throughout the match, keeping defenders on their toes. Meanwhile, Bradbury dropped into a deeper role to pull strings in the midfield as he exposed spaces behind Windsor’s defence.
Although York knew they would have a lot of the ball through the two games, they found several different ways to break down Windsor’s low block, which at points had ten men behind the ball to isolate any York attacks. York’s speed and technicality forced Windsor to take several bookings, including a red card to Mateo Nepszy on Sunday.
With Olatoye, Bradbury, Joey Mack and Agostino Principato, the Lions can control games, something they will look to continue when they host another high-flying attack in the Waterloo Warriors on Thursday night.
MEN: Chris Campoli set to take another step
Ontario Tech’s Chris Campoli continues to be the star for the Ridgebacks, but he may just be in his best form ever, albeit through one match. A former York United CPL-U SPORTS Draft pick, Campoli dominated his side’s performance in a 2-0 win at Queen’s, shining without Danial Raffisammi. The latter had helped lead the Ridgebacks over the last several seasons.
Campoli, who played the League 1 Ontario season with North Missisauga, had four shots on Saturday, scoring twice, including a curled free-kick. Before and after his outstanding performance, he is Ontario Tech’s most valuable player, but he may just have elevated his game to new heights and improved on his 12-goal season from 2021.
With his goal, he tied the all-time goalscoring record for Ontario Tech with 25.
There is still a long way to go for Ontario Tech, and some of their top quality chance takers from past years have left the program, but Campoli looks set for a career year if Saturday’s visit to Kingston is anything to go by.
UPCOMING GAMES TO WATCH:
MEN: Sept. 8 – Waterloo Warriors at York Lions
MEN: Sept. 11 – Toronto Varsity Blues at Carleton Ravens
WOMEN: Sept. 9 – Queen’s Gaels at Ottawa Gee-Gees
WOMEN: Sept. 9 – Brock Badgers at Windsor Lancers