KINGSTON, ON – Rebounding after losing out on a championship is never easy at the U SPORTS national tournaments. However, it’s a required task for half the teams that attend the final eight showdowns in soccer, basketball, volleyball and hockey.
While post-match moments in quarterfinal losses often include tears, teams still can play two more matches, taking on the consolation semifinals and finals. For the uOttawa Gee-Gees, StFX X-Women, Queen’s Gaels and Western Mustangs, it was their turn to take that chance on Friday at Kingston’s Richardson Stadium, with the Gee-Gees and Mustangs pushing to victories and Saturday’s fifth-place match.
uOttawa Gee-Gees unsung heroes lead to win over StFX
After the disappointment of losing to the UBC Thunderbirds in the U SPORTS Championship quarterfinal, the uOttawa Gee-Gees valiantly rebounded for the consolation semifinal in Saturday’s early game to beat the StFX X-Women 2-0.
While playing the consolation game wasn’t the goal for the two previously undefeated sides, it still provided moments to develop at a national championship, taking the next step towards contending again next season.
For the X-Women, however, it marked the end of an era, as Amanda Smith, a forceful forward through her five years, ended her U SPORTS career as she walked off the pitch at Richardson Stadium, not advancing to the fifth place game.
Yet, for the Gee-Gees, it allowed them to develop towards the future, with top players set to return next season, a year where they might be the best they’ve been since their run to the FISU World Cup Championship in 2019.
With Cassandra Provost announcing her return ahead of nationals, she can continue adding to her 48 OUA goals, while speedy winger Jenna Matsukubo also has a year remaining in her eligibility.
Yet, the focus wasn’t on the older players in Friday’s match but on the younger ones who showed well on the U SPORTS Championship stage.
After the X-Women developed a pair of clear-cut chances, which Smith failed to finish, the Gee-Gees opened the scoring in the 53rd minute, as Maya Dussault scored her first goal for the highly-touted program.
Twenty minutes later, second-year Eva Bouity scored her third goal for uOttawa, but first against a nationally ranked opponent, previously finding the back of the net against weaker OUA sides, the RMC Paladins and Trent Excalibur.
Despite being unable to score at the national championship, it doesn’t take anything away from the remarkable achievements of the X-Women in 2023 and their 14-match win streak through the regular season and playoffs. Moreso, it is a testament to the competitive nature of the 2023 U SPORTS Championships, where seemingly every team had a chance to advance through the quarterfinal, regardless of seeding.
Meanwhile, the Gee-Gees advance to play on Saturday, where they will look to finish fifth place at the national tournament, facing the Western Mustangs on CBC Sports.
Western wins “Party Darby” over Gaels
The Queen’s Gaels came close to defeating the Trinity Western Spartans in the late match on Thursday at the U SPORTS Championships. Still, they faltered late, surrendering their 1-0 lead in the second half before losing on a late penalty in extra time, leaving them the consolation match on Friday.
Unlike their OUA final counterparts in the Gee-Gees, the Gaels came out flat in the opening half, quickly falling to a 3-0 deficit against Western, as Gabby Kohut scored twice in the opening 20 minutes, en route to a 5-2 victory for the Mustangs.
Natalie Abbate and Kohut both finished the consolation semifinals with a pair of goals, while Reese Fowler added the other.
For Kohut, a third-year, she opened the scoring in the 15th minute, making a run in behind to meet Medina Birani’s through ball, catching Queen’s goalkeeper Kirstin Tynan committing too early before dribbling the ball into the gaping goal.
Kohut added her second in the 20th minute, controlling and finishing a cross after a skillful run down the wing by Maya Lankin, who beat three Queen’s defenders before sending in the cross.
The Mustangs added a third goal through Reese Fowler before the 30-minute mark, taking advantage of an unsettled Gaels side in a way they hadn’t against OUA West opponents in the regular season.
While Queen’s Leda Naihin beat Western’s Samantha St. Croix from a sharp angle in the 42nd minute, they couldn’t generate much more until the 70th, when Vita Naihin sent a long shot on goal, forcing St. Croix into a sprawling stop over the crossbar.
Western continued to press throughout the second half, even as the Gaels settled into the match, with Natalie Abbate extending the score to 4-1, before the Gaels cut into the lead with a blistering strike from in close off the foot of Morgan Fenton.
The Mustangs kept going, however, adding a 90th-minute free-kick goal to their tally as Abatte curled the ball around the wall and past Tynan for her second goal of the evening.
Although the tournament didn’t go how the Queen’s Gaels desired, given their near-perfect season in the OUA East, they continued to show reasons to be positive for the future, notably with the Naihin twins, Ledda and Vita, who proved in their rookie seasons that they would be vital pieces for the program to build around moving forward.
The Mustangs look ahead to the U SPORTS consolation final, facing the Ottawa Gee-Gees in a battle of the OUA Champions and OUA bronze medalists.