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 – In an 8-week season, the playoffs always sneak up on you, but we’ve already seen the Round of 16 and Quarter-finals pass us by.
It’s the end of October, so the Final Four is upon us, this time in a slightly different format. Typically played in a single-weekend tournament, the semis and finals are spread out between Wednesday and Saturday this time.
As someone who has played two consecutive 120-min OUA Playoff Games, I can confidently say this was the right decision for the players and fans. Not only will the athletes be safer they will also be able to rest before the final, meaning the quality of play will increase.
The best way to summarize our four semi-finalists is no surprises. The top two seeded teams from the East and the West will be crossing over for the first time this year. They are Western and York from the West, and Queen’s and Ottawa from the East. Let’s take a look at their paths to the semis and make note of some notable storylines and protagonists.
York Lions vs Queen’s Gaels
Queen’s earned the right to host a playoff game by surpassing Ottawa on the last matchday of the regular season, riding a 5-game win streak and scoring 58 goals while only conceding six.
Their path to the quarters was relatively simple, with a bye in the first round and then a resounding 4-0 win over Nipissing in the second. Queen’s are the defending champions and have been nationally ranked all season (currently #2). Their key strengths include their veteran core, their possession-based and creative style of play, as well as offensive firepower.
Between their front three and attacking midfielders, it’s hard to predict who will score, but you know someone always will. Between striker Cecilia Way, wingers Jenna Matsukobo and Mattie Strickler, or midfielders Raya Athwal and Seema Sakran, the Gaels have a potent attack, paired with a solid defence led by DM Tori Chia, CB Jenna Leslie, and GK Kirstin Tynan. There’s a lot to like, and it will be very difficult to beat this hungry Gaels team.
York, on the other hand, had a different path to the semis, with a first-round bye and then going 120 minutes plus PKs to emerge victorious over the Guelph Gryphons, who were worthy adversaries all season.
It was an intense match, the Lions striking twice in the first half only to concede in the 82nd and 92nd minute off of two set pieces. It’s fair to say the Lions were dominant, out-shooting and out-possessing their opponents. Captain Jotham Chouhan came up clutch with an assist as well as whipping in tons of dangerous set pieces. Rookie Nia Fleming-Thompson stole the show, though, emanating danger every time she touched the ball and scoring her first playoff goal. Ultimately, the Lions rallied in PKs converting every shot and counting on keeper Ava Jones who saved the Gryphons’ first attempt. York has a tough task against the Gaels and will travel down the 401 to Kingston for a 5 pm kickoff time on Wednesday. Stay tuned to see whether the Lion’s tired legs will show or whether they pull off the first upset of the playoffs so far.
Ottawa Gee-Gees vs Western Mustangs
Western is the top-seeded team from the West heading into the semi-finals, having beaten York on the final matchday of the regular season to clinch first place. That means Ottawa has a long 6+ hour drive to London to take on the Mustangs on their home turf on Wednesday night at 7:00 pm ET.
While Western’s season wasn’t as convincing as usual, they still managed to pull off a 9-2-1 record, scoring the most goals (34) and conceding the fewest (10). Most importantly, they came through in the crucial clashes with York and Guelph with two wins. Their path to the semis was convincing. Following their first-round bye, the Mustangs defeated McMaster in resounding fashion, putting 5 past their opponents and keeping a clean sheet at home. In terms of star players, look no further than 2nd-year defender Avarie Thompson, who scored vs the Marauders, as did forwards Hannah Vickers (6G, 2A) and Reese Fowler (5G, 1A), the Mustang’s top scorers. Western also out-shot their opponents 15:0, putting on an offensive and defensive masterclass and rightfully earning their recent #7 U SPORTS ranking.
That being said, the Mustangs will likely be considered the underdogs, given the quality of their opponents. The Ottawa Gee-Gees have a slightly better record, have been consistently ranked top-four in the nation over the year, and are coming off a gold medal-winning FISU Americas performance.
Their squad is brimming with talent all over the pitch, and they’re rightfully a confident group. En route to the semis, the Gee-Gees put on a clinic vs the Toronto Varsity Blues, winning 4-0 led by striker Cassandra Provost (2G) and midfielder Soumaya Bouak (3A). Keep an eye on these two against Western, and how well they’re complemented by forwards Gendreau, Chase, Oriente, and rookie Allen.
Ottawa’s defensive unit is just as impressive, led by Graduate student Kayla Kyle, second year Trinity Esprit, and veteran leader Katerine Delev, a central midfielder with pro experience. All in all, it’s safe to say the Gee-Gees have the quality to win this game. The question remains, can they do it on a chilly November night in London?
If you’re intrigued, make sure to tune into @OUASport on socials and check OUA.tv for links to the streams. These will be some of the best domestic women’s soccer games played in Canada this year, including tons of Canadian talent bound to reach the next level sooner rather than later.