TORONTO, ONT – It’s the most unlikely of rivalries, yet its next chapter is about to be written.
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and Brazil’s Universidade Paulista meet in the FISU Americas Final on Sunday, their third notable matchup in just a few years.
First, it was the Gee-Gees prevailing over the Bralizians in the final of the FISU World Cup 2019, as Katherine Bearne delivered a well-placed corner kick to Mikayla Morton, who headed home the title-clinching goal.
The just last week, the two sides battled to a 1-1 draw in the group stages of the FISU Americas in Mexico.
Now, they add the novel’s third chapter, with a gold medal and pan-American Championship on the line.
A tactically sound win over Monterrey
It wasn’t a simple task for the Gee-Gees to get to the final. On Friday, they took on Monterrey, a team that had adjusted to a much more defensive low lock system than in the group stage. While the Gee-Gees efficiently handled them to a 3-1 win in group play, the knockout match was a more demanding test.
In the semifinal, both midfields neutralized one another, with Soumaya Bouak and Katie Brzozowski unable to get the ball to their forwards through the opening moments. At the back, however, the Gee-Gees ensured that nothing got through, with Trinity Esprit and Maya Smith making critical blocks and tackles throughout the first half hour.
Ottawa began finding more space by playing patient soccer out of the defence, and head coach Steve Johnson shifted Ella Chase into a slightly more central position, allowing her to run onto balls sent over the top.
The Canadians broke the deadlock in the 39th minute due to patient play with a direct plan. Bouak did well to hold the ball in her own end, playing it back in a triangle to avoid defensive pressure, as the ball eventually worked its way to Adriane Devlin, who promptly spotted Chase making the run in behind the defence.
As Chases’s shot ripped into the net, the Gee-Gees wouldn’t look back — they were heading to the FISU Americas final.
The Gee-Gees had most of the possession through the second half, while the game opened up as Monterrey pushed with time ticking off the clock.
In the 69th minute, the Gee-Gees made it 2-0, as Chase dropped deeper into a midfield pocket as a false nine striker before laying off to Angelina Gendreau, whose pass to Olivia Allen landed in the perfect path for an attacker.
Cassidy Joslin wasn’t too busy in the Gee-Gees goal, but between her stops and the rugged defensive effort, the Canadians saw out the clean sheet and booked their ticket to the final. Still, patient yet tactical buildups saw Ottawa into the FISU Americas final.
Two games, one team
While the Gee-Gees face Palusita in the FISU Americas Final on Sunday, they also play an OUA game against the RMC Paladins on Saturday. Johnston has been able to draw on a few more players in an expanded roster, allowing the Gee-Gees to close out their scheduled OUA season.
Although Cassandra Provost won’t get another OUA regular season game to extend her three-goal lead atop the U SPORTS golden boot standings, the Gee-Gees have immense talent they can turn to against the Paladins.
While it is a younger side for the OUA match, Allana Oriente, Ciara Dunne, Olivia Krzywonos, and Juliann Lacasse have remained in Canada for the game, with assistant coach Veronica Mazzella set to manage the side.
The Gee-Gees have already locked up a bye through the first round of the OUA Playoffs and will have their full roster back for their first playoff match later in October. For now, however, there’s a chance for an international trophy and an OUA confidence boost.