This story is part of a season-long 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.
TORONTO, ONT – It’s the Wednesday after Canadian Thanksgiving, and you know what that means – it’s crunchtime in OUA women’s soccer. Once the leaves start turning and the temperature drops, things start to get serious, as most teams have completed 8-10 games, meaning only two regular season weekends remain for teams to clinch one of 12 playoff spots (6 in each division). With that in mind, let’s dive into playoff predictions for the East and West divisions and take a look at which Rookies have been the most impactful so far this season.
East: Carleton, TMU and Trent battle it out; Ottawa set to win the division
All roads lead to Ottawa. That’s been the motto of the OUA East season so far, the dominant Gee-Gees picking up 28 of a possible 33 points with only one game left.
The Gee-Gees have scored an incredible 41 goals, with star-striker Cassandra Provost scoring 18 of them (44%). Cass and her teammates will be well rested as they head into playoffs later this month, especially considering they’ll get the first-round bye as well, meaning they’ll have a full two weeks off. Behind Ottawa, U of T and Queen’s are battling it out for second place, sitting on 18 and 24 points, respectively, with the Gaels two games behind.
Both teams have a favourable schedule to end the season and should win their remaining games, meaning that, barring any dropped points, U of T will claim the first-round bye based on having more wins. Beyond the top three, Nipissing and Carleton are relatively safe to round out the top five, given their remaining schedules. However, that could change if they start dropping points as well. Now for the last and final spot, this is where it gets complex.
Realistically, TMU is in the power position on 10 points but could certainly still drop the ball, considering they’re playing the three teams ahead of them. The other contenders are the Trent Excalibur, on 7 points, who still play Queen’s and Carleton.
Prediction: TMU secures 6th spot, Ottawa and U of T first-round byes
West: Four teams within four points, Lions, Gryphons and Mustangs battle for first place
The OUA West has been marked by parity all season, with all but two teams in the playoff race. It’s exciting when on any given day, any team can beat another, and it’s made for an epic playoff race.
Example A: Eighth-placed Waterloo recently beat first-place (and 9th-ranked) Western Mustangs, keeping things interesting at the top of the table. Western, Guelph and York are in a tight race for two first-round byes, with only four points separating the three teams (Western – 22, Guelph – 19, York – 18).
Behind the top three, Brock has been the breakout team of the season so far, with five wins on the season. However, they also have the most challenging end to the season, playing Guelph twice and York once. If coach Carli Tingstad’s team can snag a point or three from those matches they should qualify among the top six teams.
Below Brock, three teams sit within one point (Windsor – 12, Laurier – 12, McMaster – 11). Only two of three can qualify. Among the three, McMaster has the best shot as they still have two matches against Algoma, which should yield six points.
Laurier and Windsor still have to play each other once (Windsor won the first match 4-1), and also have to play one or two of the top three teams. Nevertheless, Windsor has been a force at home and still has two remaining home games, making them more likely to claim one of the top 6 spots.
Prediction: Gryphons win the Division title, Laurier misses out on playoffs
Rookie Watch: Sakran, Allen, and Fleming-Thompson lead the way
Last but not least, let’s take a look at the possible Rookie of the Year candidates. The talent in OUA WSOC is unreal, and it genuinely feels like it’s improving with each new crop of players. The best and the brightest youth players come into the league and dominate right away, impressive considering they are competing against players 3 to 5 years their senior. Previous winners include players like Cecilia Way, Kalifornia Mitchell, Victoria Hinchliffe, and Jenna White, to name a few, some of whom went on to become U SPORTS all-stars and win major hardware.
So who are we keeping an eye on this season? In the East, look no further than Queen’s midfield magician Seema Sakran, who has 8 goals and 3 assists in 8 games started this season. The Barrie, ON native and Kinesiology student, has been impressively consistent despite her young age, and will continue to be a box-to-box and aerial threat in Queen’s final four games and playoff run.
It will be hard to argue for anyone other than Sakran to win the East Division’s ROTY award, but two Ottawa Gee-Gees are the most likely candidates. Forward Olivia Allen has 6 goals and 1 assist in only 5 starts for Ottawa. Given their depth up front, it’s even more impressive that she has proved herself as a starter in recent weeks, starting 3 of Ottawa’s last 3 matches. The League 1 Ontario standout and Biomedical Science student is surely not a bad shout for ROTY.
Last but not least, Maya Smith, the Center Back from top youth club Ottawa South United, has played almost every minute of her rookie season. A position that requires lots of maturity, Smith has made the spot beside veteran Kyle her own, scoring one goal while conceding only 5 times (7 clean sheets).
Over to the West division, where there’s also one clear front-runner in York Lions forward Nia Fleming-Thompson. If you paid attention to Vaughan’s League 1 Ontario season this summer, this name will be familiar to you. The Mississauga, ON native has 7 goals in 9 starts so far this season, helping York stay among the top three in the West.
Beyond Fleming-Thompson, three defenders come to mind. York’s Giuliana Paloella has come in clutch at fullback, with 7 starts as part of a defence posting 6 shutouts and only 7 goals against. Another strong defensive team, the Brock Badgers, are a team in transition, with lots of freshmen, but one stands above the rest in Makenna Williamson.
The Hamilton, ON native, has 9 starts and 1 goal for Brock, who have only conceded 8 times. Lastly, Windsor’s defence has been quite strong, conceding the least goals (7 – tied with York), thanks to players like Sydney Warwick, who has started every game as a fullback. The Calgary, AB native and Forensic Science student has been good on the ball, too, often joining the attack and recording 14 shots.
Upcoming Must-Watch Games
Queen’s vs Trent, Oct. 15th (3:15pm ET)
Guelph vs Brock, Oct. 16th, (1:00pm ET)
Western vs York, Oct. 23rd, (1:00pm ET)