This story is the first in a season-long series in partnership with WSoccer.CA, a social media platform connecting and collecting all there is to know about Canadian women’s soccer. Written by AC Lang, former Guelph Gryphon.
The OUA kicked off the 2022 season on labour day weekend, seeing hundreds of women return to the pitch in school colours. The next eight weeks will feature the best women’s soccer in the province, showcasing the huge pool of domestic talent Canada, and specifically, Ontario, has to offer. It’s an exciting time for U SPORTS soccer athletes across the country, who are witnessing more meaningful competitions created for women, including the inaugural interprovincial championship in August, increasing demands for a domestic pro league, as well as a record number of U SPORTS athletes turning pro after they graduate.
It was easy to see the impact of recent growth, as many U SPORTS athletes now compete in provincial/high-performance competitions such as League 1 Ontario and BC, PLSQ, and UWS. With that in mind, let’s dive into three trends from the Opening weekend and who to keep eye on in the coming weeks.
Ottawa dominates in the Six
The uOttawa Gee-Gees have been a powerhouse in the OUA for well over a decade. Recently though, it seems they’ve turned it up a notch. By recruiting and developing players well and taking advantage of the vast talent pool in the region, the Gee-Gees have managed to win a FISU World Champion title, an OUA, and a U SPORTS championship banner.
To start off the 2022 season, they drove 400km down the 401 and absolutely schooled both the Varsity Blues and the TMU Bold (previously Rams). The first game ended 4:1 against U of T, after Ottawa went up by four goals in 35 minutes. The Gee-Gees kept it cool in the second half in what was otherwise a scorcher of a day at Varsity Stadium.
The most impressive part of Ottawa’s performance besides the offensive display of strength was their depth. After 30 minutes, coach Johnson casually subbed on rookie Olivia Allen, 2nd-year Ella Chase, and 3rd-year Allana Oriente to replace the front line of Cassandra Provost (PLSQ top scorer in 2022) and Soumaya Bouak (5G with Simcoe County, L1O). The Gee-Gees also had plenty of standout performances in the midfield, but for us, Trinity Esprit was the POTM with a standout performance at right fullback (2A).
In the second match, Provost (2), Bouak, and Allen were among the goalscorers in a 5:1 win at Downsview Park. The Gee-Gees will once again be favoured to win their division and make a deep playoff run, despite losing standout midfielder Sadie Sider-Echenberg who signed her first pro contract for D1 club Le Havre.
Carleton, McMaster, and Windsor steal points
For the most part, the OUA is a fairly evenly balanced league. Sure there are perennial powerhouses, but every year a few underdogs are able to steal the show and make a surprising run in the league or playoffs. Recently, it’s been Nipissing (last year’s semi-finalist, Central division winner) or Windsor who have been able to pull off upsets. On opening day, the Ravens tied Queen’s thanks to a stunning free-kick goal by Elodie Sylvain, Mac tied Western as Coach Miranda Wiley picked up her first point of the season, and Windsor came up with a resilient 0-0 performance against York primarily through strong team play and stellar goalkeeping by Lauren Gellner. What does this tell us about this upcoming season? Maybe not that much yet, but it shows that the favourites in both the East and West divisions are fallible, especially in the early part of the season as they try to find their rhythm. That being said, all three favoured teams came away with wins in the following matches, Western and York picking up narrow 1:0 wins vs Mac and Windsor, and Queen’s dominating Ontario Tech in a 6:1 win (goal by Cecilia Way – 2, Sophie Miranda, Maddie Strickler – 2, and Marissa Gravel).
Is Laurier making a comeback?
Those who were around the OUA women’s soccer scene in the 2008-2013 era will remember the epic squad coach Barry MacLean assembled at the time. They won two OUA Championships and a U SPORTS silver medal at the time. Legendary players like Emily Brown (76 career goals), Katie Bishop (4x OUA All-Star), Alyssa Lagonia (CanWNT capped, played in UWCL), and Nicole Lyon (2x U SPORTS All-Canadian), were part of the squad back then, shaping the Golden Hawk’s most recent Golden era.
Since 2014 though, the Hawks have struggled to recreate that type of success, missing the playoff in all but one season since 2016. The good news is, things are looking up for the ladies in purple and gold. Having undergone a major roster overhaul in recent years, there is an interesting mix of first to fourth-year players in the squad, and one player in particular stood out in last weekend’s two victories in the Battle(s) for Waterloo.
Five-foot-ten forward Sasha Marikano (first games for Laurier in her 2nd year of eligibility) scored three goals, including the two opening goals, to secure two wins for the Hawks (2:0 and 4:1) and the OUA Athlete of the Week title. If she can keep this up, could she be the one to lead Laurier into the next golden era? Stay tuned to find out!
As usual, there are tons of storylines, emerging stars, and intrigue happening in OUA Woso. If you’re looking to follow along, make sure to keep an eye on the OUA website and socials. Many games are streamed live through OUA TV (www.oua.yaretv.com). Check back here in two weeks to read about emerging trends, teams and players after three weeks of OUA action.
Upcoming Must-Watch Games
Ottawa vs Queens – September 9th at 7:00pm on OUA TV
TMU vs Ontario Tech – September 15th at 6:00pm ET on OUA TV
McMaster vs Windsor, September 18th 2:00pm ET on OUA TV