The AUS women’s soccer competition will be wide open in 2022.
A hard-fought AUS championship by the Acadia Axewomen, featuring two extra-time wins, won them the conference last season. But the StFX X-Women, Dalhousie Tigers and Cape Breton Capers, the teams the Axewomen beat on the path to the banner, were right there in each of those one-goal games.
Not to mention the Memorial Sea-Hawks, where an MVP performance from Holly O’Neill led them to top the regular season standings. The list goes on, considering the rebirth of the Mount Allison Mounties’ success and a big offseason for the UNB Reds. No one can pick one of those teams now. They’ll have to decide amongst themselves in yet another November war.
The 2021 champs fought their way deep into the season with their defensive talent. Led by a fullback lineup featuring Lauren Jodrey, Mya Harnish and Meghan Johnston, and stellar goalkeeping from rookie Milena Ramirez, Acadia allowed just one goal in 330 minutes of play at the AUS championships in Cape Breton. On the same turf at nationals, coach Amit Batra’s squad allowed just one goal in two games, losing both matches in penalties. Scoring dried up some late in the season, but few teams hold together the game plan late in the game as the Axewomen do.
Impressively, Acadia is expecting its full starting lineup to return for its 2022 title defence. That starts with Jayden Boudreau and Grace Somers at striker. Boudreau had two goals in the 2021 postseason. The Axewomen will field arguably the best midfield in the conference again. That features Madicynn Harnish, Madyson Harris and Grace Longley, who scored the AUS-winning goal versus X last year. Jodrey heads into her senior year as the squad’s captain and with Johnston playing alongside her, an aggressive, offensive-minded fullback, the Axewomen backline won’t be fun to play. Ramirez’s season in goal only improved as the year went on, allowing just two goals in five postseason games.
Cape Breton Capers
A favourite to win the AUS last season as the both conference and national championship host, Cape Breton was the last undefeated team heading into their semifinal matchup versus Acadia. But after the Axewomen shocked the Capers late in the game, their season fizzled out in the nationals, unable to keep up with the offensive firepower of the Queen’s Gaels or Trinity Western Spartans. CBU can only go up now. On a team full of returnees such as leading scorers Ally Rowe and Rebecca Lambke, U SPORTS championships standouts Fatou Ndiaye and Emma Clark, and starting keeper Haley Kardas, the Capers’ focus shifts back to dominating the AUS and capturing their first conference title since 2019.
Rowe was second in points to Holly O’Neill in the 2021 AUS scoring race and led the conference in assists. Only O’Neill, Dal’s Riley Donovan and StFX’s Amanda Smith scored more goals than Rowe and Erin Freeman, making the latter the AUS’s highest-scoring fullback. With Freeman’s season-ending injury, coach Ness Timmons will need to get creative with the fullbacks, possibly with Lambke taking on more defensive responsibility in 2022. With 10 incoming first-years, including Canadian women’s U20 team member Lauren Rowe, CBU will have a large list of returnees mixed with competition for roster spots.
The 2021 season saw Dal go from a freakishly hot start to, well, the exact opposite of a finish. After winning four of their first five games last season, the Tigers were in first place on Oct. 1. That fourth win, a 6-0 romping of the UPEI Panthers, was their last of the season. After, the Tigers went 0-4-4 (win-draw-loss), scoring just two goals in that span. With leading attackers Riley Donovan and Zoe Brown having graduated, rediscovering their scoring touch will be the Tigers’ greatest hurdle.
Keeping the ball out of the net is still a strong suit for the Tigers. Annabel Gravely will look to one-up a stellar 2021 where she put up an AUS-best seven clean sheets. She’ll have lots of help from returning defenders Carly Birrell and Alexandra Doane, who missed half of 2021 with an injury. U20 national players Inari Moore and 2021 AUS rookie of the year Megan Chaisson will drive the midfield and potentially some much-needed scoring from the position. Kaitlyn Woodworth and Chloe Richardson got plenty of playing time with Donovan, Brown and Sofia Nicholls last season as strikers. Now it’s up to them to put the ball in the net for Dal.
2021 started with rather low expectations from the lone Newfoundland and Labrador squad in the AUS. Thanks to a dominant season from fifth-year striker Holly O’Neill, the suddenly-first-place Sea-Hawks became a threat to win their first conference title since 2014 come playoff time. Although MUN boasted the AUS’s best offence in total goals, thanks in part to O’Neill’s league-leading 12 goals, StFX outgunned them in penalty kicks to end a memorable Memorial campaign. With the reigning MVP now graduated, the Sea-Hawks are under pressure to maintain the upward trajectory and quickly fill the gap in their offensive game.
MUN scored a lot last year, but also allowed the second-fewest goals in the regular season. So goalkeeper Sydney Walsh’s return for a fifth year is a huge win, to say the least. However, the rest of the defence will look different with many graduating in 2021. Now, youngsters such as Sarah Jones and Sarah Woodford will assume that responsibility in their own end. Senior Katie Joyce is a key returnee in the midfield. The youth will lead the way at forward too, namely second-years Claire Langille and Zoe Rowe. Winning AUS coach of the year in 2021, Mike Power will need to work more magic this season to keep MUN in the championship conversation.
Moncton Aigles Bleues
2021 was a bad year for the Aigles Bleues. It’s hard to sugarcoat it much more than that. Losing all 12 games in their season, the 49 goals allowed was almost double that of the next worst defensive team (SMU’s 26). A league-worst six goals scored all year didn’t help either. 2021 was the icing on the cake of a playoff drought that’s existed since UdeM hosted the AUS championships in 2015 as a last-place team. Otherwise, they haven’t been playoff-calibre since 2012. With a relatively young team again in 2022, coach Mehyar Zekaroui will have to prepare his squad to accept the little wins first and foremost.
A bright spot in Moncton’s dismal 2021 was the emergence of striker Leila Karam. With four points on the season, Karam contributed to all but two of Moncton’s goals all season. Zoé Brockbank, heading into her third season with UdeM, had two points in 2021. A new-look midfield in 2022 will be highlighted by Alexane Dupuis and Alexandra Roy, both of whom played in all but two games each last season as first years. UdeM’s two busiest fullbacks were Katarina Laevski and Monica Mazerolle, with the return of both in 2022 likely. Chelsea Burnham played every minute of every game in goal last season as a senior. If she doesn’t opt to return, Adele Melançon-Caillé is next in line for the job.
Mount Allison Mounties
The past decade has been a miserable one for the Mounties, lucky most years to not finish dead last in the AUS. Then came 2021, where a midseason five-game win streak vaulted them into the playoffs for the first time since 2013 (2012 as a non-host). Those were the Mounties’ only five wins of the year, but big wins over Dal and UPEI raised eyebrows and established them as a team that can shock. A key piece in the team’s success was midfielder Amanda Piltzmaker’s stellar year, where she scored five goals (T-4th AUS), four being game-winners. One of the league’s best big-moment players last season, Piltzmaker’s departure leaves coach Gene Ouellette and the team to find another formula to outlast opponents like last year.
Along with Piltzmaker, 2021 team leading scorers Kathryn Perry and Kiana Gagnon are not with the team. That will leave a new-looking offence led by midfielder Bailey Hatcher, the highest-scoring returnee from last year with two points, and rookies Isabelle Senecal and Victoria Jones. Hailey Stack will play a lot at midfield with Hatcher, while Claire Sheppard and rookie Maeve Williams have seen a lot of pitch at fullback in the preseason. Most of the team may be new-look, but a familiar face will be fourth-year keeper Sophie Austin, coming off her best AUS season in 2021 where she won three games.
Saint Mary’s Huskies
The Huskies have been on a slide for years now. Forget having not won a conference title in 20 years. They’ve made the AUS championship just once since 2012 and finished close to last in the remaining seasons. Most of all about last year’s squad? The team wasn’t particularly exciting to watch, being compared to some more epic highs and lows their AUS counterparts endured. But SMU is desperate for a kickstart of some sort and in 2022, they will have new personnel to do so. With just five players in third-year and up, coach Marisa Colzie has 19 first-year players competing for spots this preseason.
Their highest-scoring 2021 returnee will be Allie Martin. With three points, the second-year striker tied the departed Hanna Dorey for the team scoring lead. Midfielder Anelise Karakostas will also be relied upon to contribute after registering a pair of assists in 2021. Rookie midfielder Julia Pasma has been involved in preseason play. At fullback, first-year Alexandra Campbell brings an interesting offensive element seen in exhibition play versus Memorial, where she had three shots on target in just a half of play. Returnees Molly McLeod and Madison Ganong will be major players toward their own goal. Grace Morrison will have the starting reigns between the sticks in year three at SMU.
Saint Francis Xavier X-Women
StFX has remained a contender since last winning the AUS in 2016. They got painfully close again last November, being shut down by the defensively-picky Axewomen in the conference final. Heading into the new year, the X-Women will have an advantage few others appear to have: a large group of returnees to build off last year’s run. That list will be highlighted by striker Amanda Smith, already one of the conference’s most frightening scorers over the three seasons previous. There’s no doubt StFX, coached by Graham Kennedy, will fill the net yet again in 2022. Could that carry them to a U SPORTS nationals appearance?
Smith’s six goals led the way, but X saw balanced contributions, from forward Brynn Jurus’s five points to midfielders Talia Morin (four points) and Caitlin Crichton’s (two) play. All are back for 2022. So are the Steen twins, Abby and Emma, one of X’s most interesting stories in 2021 as the fullbacks started every game as rookies. They’ll run the defence once again, alongside Sarah Lapensee or Cassidy Byrne. Christina Gentile started all but two matches in goal last season and will return to keep the ball out of the cage again in a fall of high expectations for her team.
UNB missed the AUS championships by the skin of their teeth last season. Seriously; one goal and they were in. The Reds were on a three-game win streak heading into the season’s final game against Mount A, the team they were chasing. UNB had the lead at half too over a sliding Mounties team. But with Mount A’s Hatcher scoring on a second-half penalty, the draw put the tiebreak in Mount A’s favour. The 2022 edition of the Reds, coached by Jonathan Crossland, holds a ton of promise, from a solid group of returnees to good performances in preseason play.
While midfielder Jesse Bellamy and keeper Brynn Nash were slated to leave the program in the spring following graduation, the two seniors have returned to UNB for fifth seasons. Bellamy was second in team scoring with five points in 2021, behind the now-graduated Madison Goertz’s six. Bellamy, alongside strikers Jillian Larose and Heidi Lauwerijssen, will be tasked to fill the gap left by Goertz. Nash posted a 1.42 goals-against average and four wins in 2021, playing every minute for UNB. Eve MacDonald and Madolyn Bush will be leaders in the midfield. Meanwhile, Nash will work alongside fullback Aurora Hughes-Goyette to improve on the 17 goals they allowed last fall.
The Panthers always seemed so close, yet so far, from what they wanted to achieve in 2021. Look at the standings: they won just once while gathering an AUS-leading five draws. While they aren’t losses, they were out of the playoff race early in October as they fell behind a crammed top seven teams. UPEI hasn’t struggled like Moncton and Saint Mary’s have in the past decade, but they haven’t been to an AUS championship since 2014 and have been winless in the postseason since 2013. Coach Lewis Page will need to find answers on what’s expected to be a new-looking team.
Midfielders Lauren Clark and Tyffanie Bordage led UPEI’s scoring with six and five points, respectively, last season. Bordage is graduated and with Clark’s status for 2022 uncertain, players such as Rachel Green, Caitlyn McCloskey and Braylan Maceachern will be leaned on to drive the offence. Laura Burge played every game on fullback for UPEI but if she’s not back, Madi Fisher and Carrie Docherty will take the reigns on the back line. Veronica Kozak and Ali Muise split most of last season in the box, but Kozak played almost another full game in minutes as a rookie keeper.
Regular Season Standings Prediction
- 1. StFX
8. Mount Allison
9. Saint Mary’s