TORONTO, ONT – The OUA soccer season is past the midway point, and the race for playoffs is heating up. With near record-setting performances this past week, and surprising results keeping programs in the playoff hunt, there is a long way to go until a champion is ground. However, at least in most games, the conference continues to provide thrill and excitement.
With just a few weeks left in the OUA soccer season, 49 Sports looks at key takeaways in both men’s and women’s leagues.
MSOC: TMU and York have a goal-fest, highlighting mismatched OUA quality
If there was one common theme throughout the midway point week of the OUA men’s soccer season, it was goals. Well, at least on the outskirts of Toronto, as the TMU Bold downed the RMC Paladins 15-0 at Downsview Park and the Algoma Thunderbirds fell 12-1 to the York Lions at York Lions Stadium.
While the goals only broke program records, the games showed the massive gulp in class between the top and high middle of the OUA, and the bottom, with two of the weakest programs in the country.
For Algoma, each week features a double game week against the same team, while RMC continually gets throttled regardless of the opponent. While York and TMU are ranked within the U SPORTS top-10 and played beautiful soccer in their blowout wins, it brings into question the competition level of the OUA and whether it could benefit some programs to drop down to the collegiate ranks.
Looking at Algoma in particular, their men’s soccer team is simply not to the level of U SPORTS standard and offers nothing but a placeholder on the schedule. Additionally, playing in chippy, low-standard games can put student-athletes at risk of injury, particularly harming those looking to advance their soccer careers in Canada and abroad.
Add in that Algoma hasn’t won a game in over two years, and it’s hard to see a benefit to having the school compete in the OUA. However, their presence does allow for an ego boost.
With the lopsided results continuously falling onto RMC and Algoma, it could be time for those teams to drop down to the OCAA collegiate level. Alternatively, OUA soccer could adopt promotion and relegation, copying League 1 Ontario, with hopes of avoiding such discrepancy in competition.
Of the players who showcased themselves in the high-scoring affairs, look no further than TMU captain Sean Fafinski and his five-goal performance, as well as York’s Sami Ssebaduka, who dazzled in complete control against Algoma. York’s Justin Cichillo and Michael Pettiti also showed their attacking skillsets in the significant win.
Really, it was a rest week, and a competitive training session for the two Toronto sides, who now look to re-energize their games when York takes on McMaster and TMU faces Toronto.
MSOC: OUA East Playoff Battle heats up
Look across every division in U SPORTS and you won’t find another playoff race as tantalizing as the OUA East, a division which often features maligned programs, now finding themselves with a legitimate shot at the postseason.
The Laurentian Voyageurs and Trent Exaclibur may not be among the nation’s elite, but they are tied at six points with the Queen’s Gaels, as all three are vying for the final playoff spot at sixth in the division. Meanwhile, the Nipissing and TMU are tied for the fifth place spot at 12 points, double that of the race for the final berth.
While the advantage would seemingly fall to the favour of Queen’s, the strength of schedule and upcoming matchups will define how things unfold. Trent ends their season with a double match week against the high-flying Carleton Ravens; meaning their main matches to focus are against last-placed RMC and the Queen’s Gaels.
If Trent picks up six points against RMC and Queen’s, they’re in the driver’s seat, even before they step foot on the same pitch as the Ravens. However, Queen’s has a game in hand and a much higher potential to hit than the other two programs.
Still, while the OUA may struggle to be competitive at the bottom of the standings, the playoff race is heating up and could see the inclusion of Trent or Laurentian for the first time in several years. Either way, the six-team playoff structure is proving to be exciting.
WSOC: Queen’s finds their groove
The start of the 2022 OUA soccer season was suspect for the defending OUA Champion Queen’s Gaels, with draws against Ottawa and Carleton. Yet, it’s been a stellar few weeks for the Kingston-based program, as they toppled division leaders U of T this weekend, adding a fourth straight game to the win column.
While they’ve yet to reach the top of the conference, sitting third on 17 points, behind uOttawa and Toronto, the Gaels have still not been on the losing side of a game.
Fourth-year forward Jenna Matsukubo scored in the second minute in Downtown Toronto before Seema Sakran finished off a chance from Tori Chia, making it a two-goal lead. First-year Lily Goss put the game out of reach before halftime, extending the score to 3-0 as Queen’s found depth scoring away from Cecilia Way.
With her goal, Sakran moved into second place for total OUA points with 11, trailing only uOttawa’s Cassandra Provost with 13.
There’s been a lot of ink used on how head coach Dave McDowell has adjusted to a season without star striker Christy Gray after her graduation, but the win in Toronto showed that the Gaels have attacking qualities throughout their roster and continued strong goaltending from Kirstin Tynan.
Now ranked third in the U SPORTS top-10, less than a full ELO point behind the uOttawa Gee-Gees. Meanwhile, they sit third in the OUA East, trailing Ottawa and Toronto. However, as they get s
Now ranked third in the U SPORTS top-10, less than a full ELO point behind the uOttawa Gee-Gees, Queen’s looks to keep their undefeated season alive when they face the Nipissing Lakers, potentially their last challenge of the season. They finish the year with weaker sides, RMC, TMU, Trent and Laurentian remaining on the schedule.
It might not have been a win or goal-filled start, but a hot finish for the Queen’s Gaels could result in a second straight OUA title.
WSOC: Are York contenders again?
The York Lions won the OUA title in 2019 but have not looked the same since the fateful days at Alumni Field. However, head coach Carmine Isacco might just be seeing his team round into form at the right time this season.
While there’s little to learn from two 6-0 wins over the Algoma Thunderbirds this weekend, the Lions have shown to compete at a high level, with a rookie such as Nia Fleming-Thompson scoring in bunches (8 goals) and NCAA transfer Darcie Faichnie providing impact off the bench.
Additionally, the centre-back pairing of Bianca Jack and Brooke-Lynne Mitchell is proving incredibly strong, with the Lions conceding a measly six goals through eight games.
The Lions play a very structured 4-3-3 formation and have kept games close against the tougher competition they’ve faced, with veteran midfielders Kalifornia Mitchell and Jotam Chouhan roping back into more defensive positions when the Lions are off the ball.
Always a threat off set-pieces, York will look to continue their strong form into the playoffs, potentially claiming one of the top spots after finishing their 2022 season with games against McMaster, Laurier, Brock and Western.
Canucks Abroad Players of the Week
- Canada West M: Daniel Zadravec (UNBC)
- Canada West W: Grace Mwasalla (MacEwan)
- OUA M: Sean Fafinski (TMU)
- OUA W: Alicia Chisholm (Ontario Tech)
- RSEQ M: Quentin Paumier (Montreal)
- RSEQ W: Bianca Stevens-Cardin (Concordia)
- AUS M: Mohamed Lamine Toure (Moncton)
- AUS W: Amanda Smith (StFX)