TORONTO, ONT – The OUA Women’s Soccer playoffs are among us, and no conference is as intriguing as the OUA East, featuring last year’s OUA Champions, the recent FISU Americas Champions, and of course, the Downtown Toronto Rivalry.
While the table-topping Queen’s Gaels second-place uOttawa Gee-Gees get the byes through to the quarterfinal, the first round of the playoffs kicks off featuring some tantalizing matchups.
In Toronto, it’s a darby. Meanwhile, in Ottawa, a chance for the Nipissing Lakers to exert their star power away from home on the campus of Carleton University.
With the Carleton vs Nipissing match kicking off at 4:00 pm ET in Kingston, Ont. and the Toronto Darby scheduled for 7:30 pm ET under Varsity Stadium’s lights, 49 Sports analyzes the two matchups ahead of match time.
The lowest remaining seed would fave the Queen’s Gaels, while the highest would go up against uOttawa. Either way, it’s no easy test – yet, to be the best, you have to beat the best.
Downtown Toronto Darby hits the playoffs
The season didn’t start well for the Toronto Varsity Blues, falling to the uOttawa Gee-Gees with a flat performance in late August to open their OUA campaign. However, since then, they’ve picked up their form and found themselves just outside the first-round byes in the OUA East.
Finishing the season with a record of 9-3, good for 27 points, the Varsity Blues grabbed third place and a home playoff match in the first round of the playoffs. Led by eight goals from McMaster transfer Lindsay Bosveld, the Varsity Blues have played a demanding and physical game all season, often relying on quick passes when entering the final third.
In addition to Boslved, senior Karly Hellstrom played all 11 matches for the Varsity Blues, chipping in with five goals and six assists for a team-high of 11 points.
While those two are offensive engines, another major force is Miranda Badovinac, who scored in both of Toronto’s 4-0 and 5-2 wins over TMU this season, with a goal in te 4-0 win and three in the 5-2 victory.
Despite letting the third seed slip through their grapes with a final-day loss to the Nipissing Lakers, the Varsity Blues are strong favourites in their opening-round matchup against the TMU Bold.
TMU has been okay this season, but nothing above average, failing to dominate the conference’s weaker teams and being consistently outplayed by the strong sides, including Toronto.
While the Bold can look at a 3-6-3 record as the sixth seed, the wins against Ontario Tech, RMC and Trent are anything but frightening statements. A bright spot and player to watch on Wednesday in the playoffs will be Ivymae Perez, as she looks to carry her form of six goals into the postseason.
However, the game should fall in the Varsity Blues’ favour by the final whistle. It’s a great rivalry between the two Downtown Toronto schools, but the reality in 2022 is that Toronto is a much stronger side, especially with dominant wins over the Bold in early October.
Prediction: TORONTO 4-1 TORONTO METROPOLITAN
Nipissing favourites in tight matchup vs Carleton
It has been an upstart year for the Carleton Ravens women’s soccer program, and TAAG Park will see playoff soccer with a team favoured to advance. Yet, it won’t be an easy task for the Ravens, as they host an incredibly pesky Nipissing Lakers program.
The Lakers finished 7-3-2, one win behind the Ravens at 8-3-1, and the two sides battled to a close 1-0 Carleton win in the regular season. In the playoffs, though, the game is a different beast, with the Ravens riding a four-match win streak and Nipissing entering after convincing 6-1 and 4-2 wins against Toronto and Ontario Tech.
While the advantage would seemingly go to Carleton, playing in the friendly confines of TAAG Park, the Nipissing Lakers have performed well on the road, and have been strong against the conference’s top teams.
For the Ravens, look for a team effort led by sophomore forwards Chloe Doherty and Lauren Illman, with midfielder Salena Devellis controlling the centre of the pitch. While the trio led the Ravens to their success in the regular season, their form and experience will become handy against Nipissing.
While Carleton is soaring, it has been a little while since they faced a solid team such as the Lakers. They finished their season with wins again TMU, Trent, Ontario Tech and Laurentian — only one of those teams is playoff-bound.
On the other side of the pitch, wearing green and blue, Lakers head coach David Bitonti will hope for a similar level and intensity as shown in the last two wins. For the Lakers to win, leading goalscorer Jennifer Milligan will have to lead the way as she has often done this year.
The Lakers scored 41 goals this season, only behind the Queen’s Gaels for most in the conference. Meanwhile, their defensive record of 15 goals against is middle of the pack.
Milligan, a native of Strathroy, Ontario, makes threatening runs and is agile on the ball with a strong shot. There isn’t much more a team could ask for in a striker, and with her 11 goals and eight assists, she is bound to be the powerhouse Nipissing may need to win away from North Bay.
This one is bound to be a competitive match and is extremely tough to predict, but that’s why the athletes play the games. On Wednesday, the best in the regular season doesn’t matter anymore, though — just what a squad can do over 90 minutes or potentially a little more.
PREDICTION: NIPISSING 3-2 CARLETON