MONTREAL, QC – It was a fantastic battle between the Laval Rouge et Or and Montreal Carabins in the RSEQ last season. Laval won both regular season matchups, but Montreal defeated Laval in the RSEQ final and U SPORTS Championship final to capture their second-ever Gladys Bean Trophy as national champions.
Both teams combined to account for eight of the 11 RSEQ first-team all-stars in 2022. They have clashed in every RSEQ final dating back to 2016, save for 2019. Laval has the edge, having won three out of the five matchups. From the fans’ perspective, it has been a treat to watch their back-and-forth every year. This season looks destined to repeat history, in that respect.
Elsewhere, there is plenty of young talent on all eight teams that puts the rest of the conference up for grabs. The unpredictability of this upcoming season makes it very exciting. Before the season opens on August 29 with the UQAM Citadins playing host to the Laval Rouge et Or, let’s think about the outlook for this upcoming season.
Laval Rouge et Or
Laval and Montreal are very close, but Laval has a slight edge simply because of their younger core players who have more room to grow. Laval’s rookie midfielder Léa-Jeanne Fortier led the conference in scoring last season with seven goals and five assists. She also took home RSEQ Rookie of the Year honours. Winger Mégane Darchen–Laval’s third-best goal scorer in 2022–is also entering her second season.
Laval’s back line, which was comprised of mostly first and second-year players, conceded merely eight goals a year ago. Keeper Myriam Labrecque finished her fifth year of eligibility last season, but Anne-Marie Laroche is entering her third season, and is more than capable of holding down the fort. She only allowed four goals in her five appearances last season, and gained the trust of 2022 Coach of the Year David Desloges down the stretch. She had the third-lowest goals against average (0.79) in the conference, with Labrecque being one of only two keepers with a lower average. Laroche’s side should continue to thrive this season, as should she in a larger role.
Montreal’s roster beings with it some uncertainty this season. Reigning RSEQ Player of the Year and U SPORTS Championship MVP Mégane Sauvé has finished her five years of eligibility. It’s a massive loss for Montreal’s midfield. Montreal has also lost defenders Dre Rose-Marie Julien and Maude Poulin to the five-year rule, and it remains to be seen what newly-appointed head coach Nadège Akamse brings to the table.
Even with all their losses off the roster, they are still undoubtedly a top contender. One of the players who could help pick up the slack is midfielder Lorie Thibault, who was tied for fourth in team scoring in 2022 and is entering her third season. If their combined goal differential of plus-89 over the past three seasons is any indication, Montreal clearly has an amazing program that is always able to fill the gaps left by graduating players. However, the gap between Montreal and the midfield teams is smaller, and there are some teams that could surprise them.
The Bishop’s Gaiters only won one game in 2022, but they were rarely completely out of a game. They had the most draws in the conference (six), so they don’t need a lot more luck on their side to come out winning more often in 2023. Bishop’s is one of the teams led by young talent. They only had five players score at least one goal last year, but their two leading scorers were first-year players in midfielder/forward Michaela Marenchin and midfielder Isidora Pekez. First-year players were the main components of a back line that conceded 21 goals as well, so the Gaiters should see all-around improvement in 2023.
The Concordia Stingers are a youthful side, too. Only eight players on the 2022 roster were not in their first or second year of eligibility. They won five of their final eight games to make a push for a playoff spot, but missed out by two points. They tied for third in the conference with 19 goals scored in 2022. All-rookie keeper Bianca Stevens-Cardin along with an infusion of newly-recruited defenders will shore up the 21 goals that the Stingers conceded in 2022. The program has been trending upwards every season since 2019, so they could take another big leap in 2023.
Players to Watch
McGill Martlets midfielder Chloe Renaud was tied for second in total points on the Redbirds with two goals and two assists in 2022. She was named to the RSEQ all-rookie team and helped McGill to a playoff appearance. She should make a big impact for the Martlets in her second season.
Sherbrooke defender Kim Leblanc was the only member of the Vert et Or back line to find the back of the net in 2022. Entering her third season, she will have an important two-way presence for Sherbrooke in 2023.