TORONTO, ON – The goal of all OUA women’s soccer players is to be still playing by Halloween because, typically, that means you’ve made it past the first two rounds of the playoffs. With eight teams left, players head into the weekend hoping their Halloween costumes won’t need to be dusted off after Saturday’s matches.
The quarter-finals are the last time teams play within their division before crossing over in the semi-finals, which take place on Wednesday, November 1st.
Here’s our preview of each quarter-final.
OUA East Division
No. 1 Ottawa v No. 5 Toronto – Matt Anthony Field, 12:00pm ET
This match is a rematch from the 2022 season, where these two historic programs also met in the semi-finals. The Gee-Gees had a tremendous final week, topping the U SPORTS ranking for the first time this season after clinching the East Division regular season title last weekend.
Ottawa has been a force all season with an 11-0-1 record and over 50 goals scored. Beyond incredible offensive firepower, they can also rely on a steady backline consisting of captain Adriane Devlin, Maya Smith, Rosalie Côté, and rookie Gabrielle Ferland, which conceded only four goals all season. It will also be interesting to see whether head coach Steve Johnson continues to split his goalkeeper’s time during the playoffs or whether he’ll stick with either Juliann Lacasse or Cassidy Joslin against Toronto.
Incidentally, the last time the Gee-Gees conceded more than one goal in a game was against Toronto on Sept. 8, their only matchup this season.
On the day, Toronto’s top-scorer Hannah Chown (8G, 1A) converted a penalty kick, and Samantha Gravina scored a beautiful long-range strike in the 90th minute at Varsity Stadium. That loss was among a string of disappointing results early in the season. Still, the Varsity Blues successfully turned it around in October to win six of seven games, recording five shutouts in the process, including the 1-0 result vs Carleton in the first round.
On Saturday, the task will be to limit or shut down one of the dangerous attacks in the country, including the nation’s top scorer, Cassandra Provost.
No. 2 Queen’s v No. 3 Nipissing – Richardson Stadium, 6:00 pm ET on OUA TV
We’re glad this one’s being streamed because it’s set up to be an intense match, especially since the Lakers ruined the Gaels’ near-perfect season via a 2-1 upset in North Bay last Sunday.
Not only did Nipissing hand Queen’s their first regular-season loss in over a year, resulting in a second-place finish, but they’re also the first team to score more than on them all season. The Gaels will be looking for revenge and have the tools to do damage, including one of the best front three in the country (52G) in Mattie Strickler (10G, 5A), and rookie twins Leda (7G, 3A) and Vita Naihin (5G, 2A), which is supported by one of the most productive midfielders in the OUA, Seema Sakran (7G, 6A).
Nipissing will travel five hours south to Kingston to face what will likely be a large pro-Queen’s crowd at Richardson Stadium. Nipissing certainly has momentum thanks to the massive performance last Sunday and their 3-1 first-round comeback win mid-week over Ontario Tech.
Their stars delivered on the night: Jennifer Milligan scored her fifth goal of the season off a Cassidy Brooks (11G, 2A) assist, and Jessica Emmerton got her 10th goal of the season. In the back, Rylee Traicoff, who was capped by Guyana’s National Team this season, continues to deliver all-star performances. If the Lakers can recreate some of the magic from last weekend, they’ll have the chance to dash Queen’s dreams two weeks in a row.
No. 1 Western v No. 5 Laurier – TD Field, 1:00 pm ET
The first impression of this matchup is – Western, at home? Good Luck, Laurier!
Anyone who’s played on TD Field knows it’s a pitch perfectly suited to the Mustangs’ strengths, mainly due to its size. Head coach Martin Painter has always fielded an athletically dominant team, relying on speed and combination play. Western has a perfect home record thanks to a strong defensive record (6 goals against, 3rd best in the OUA) and a strong veteran core stepping up. They’re tough to predict. They have nine different goalscorers on the season and five players with over four points (Reese Fowler, MacKenzie Bilotta, Medina Birani, Alessia Breda, Hannah Vickers).
The last meeting between these two teams ended in a narrow 1-0 Mustang win three weeks ago.
If there’s any team that has a good chance of scoring on TD Field, the Golden Hawks are a decent shout, considering they were the second-highest-scoring team in the regular season (32).
Laurier’s offensive success this season has come down to locals Lexi Kroeker (7G) and Mackenzie Forte (5G, 1A) and League 1 Ontario standouts Jyanessa Sealy (9G, 3A) and Sasha Marikano (4G). Defensively, things aren’t quite as impressive, with seven of 13 goals against coming in games against the top three teams. Despite not yet earning a win against a top side this season, now would be the perfect time to buck that trend.
No. 2 McMaster v No. 3 Guelph – Ron Joyce Stadium, 1:00 pm ET on OUA TV
Last but certainly not least, it’s a Highway 6 derby, Guelph making the short trip down to Hamilton to take on the McMaster Marauders. Plenty has been written about the Marauder’s success this season. Whether it’s home-field advantage, the solid veteran core, first-year head coach Garrett Peters’ influence, set-piece magic, or the plethora of offensive threats, things are coming together this year for the Marauders.
In only their second loss of the season, they missed the opportunity to claim the West division regular season title, but that will likely only fuel their fire. McMaster dominated the last time they played the Gryphons at home; they came away with a huge 4-0 win thanks to goals by Brianna Caldwell, Emilie Calabrese (2), and Alyssa Wheeler. Their midfield has been particularly industrious this fall, chipping in 16 assists, each player seemingly able to play the final ball.
Guelph’s coach, Shayne Campbell, knows precisely how difficult this challenge will be, but their mid-week 4-1 win will have instilled the team with a sense of confidence, mainly because their top players are starting to heat up at exactly the right time.
Winger Christina Gomes (5G, 1A) has been in fantastic form for weeks, offensive midfielder Olivia Rizakos’s brace was her fifth goal in her last three games, and Olivia Brown (5G, 2A) has a three-game point streak going. One of the reasons the Gryphons lost by such a large margin last time out was that they played without their starting goalie, rookie Sabrina Spano, who ranks among the top five keepers in the OUA in save percentage, goals against, and goals-against-average. She will be ready to start on Saturday, hoping to make it to her first OUA Final Four.