CIS

Photo: Marta Kierkus.

After heartbreaking finish last year, hopes are still high

Last year, the Gee-Gees women’s soccer team had their sights set on a national title after a 13-0-3 regular season.

Their aspirations came crashing down in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs, when the Laurier Golden Hawks scored at the last minute to upset the host Gees.

The women eventually went on to defeat York for the OUA bronze, but the team did not qualify for nationals. Their singular loss last year cost them everything.

Although spirits were high after the team’s final win, it doubled as a goodbye to the three most consistent soccer stars in the team’s history.

Julia Francki, Pilar Khoury, and Cynthia Leblanc all graduated at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the Gees are now without their top scorers and goaltender, as well as most of their veteran leadership.

There is no doubt that there will be a stiff learning curve for the team this year, but being a program consistently contending for a national title, the Gee-Gees should have enough weapons in their arsenal to stay atop their division and make some noise come playoff time.

Looking at the team’s schedule, late August and September should give them a little bit of a break. They will open their season on Aug. 26 on the road in Oshawa to take on the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)  Ridgebacks before returning home two days later to face Trent at home. The team will have plenty of time to come together with the comfort of playing at Matt Anthony Field for the majority of matches in September, apart from two small trips to Kingston.

Conversely, during October, the team will have to prepare to spend the majority of time on the road, with trips to North Bay, Sudbury, and Toronto.

Regardless of the losses in their line up, the Gees’ offensive game should remain strong this time around.

Last year, Théa Nour was the leading scorer behind Francki and Khoury with five goals, which is a number that should rise this year.

Other offensive contributors that will likely prove to be scoring threats this year are fourth-year Hannah Landry, third-year Delaney Rickert-Hall, and Katherine Berne, who is only in her second eligible year after missing last year rehabbing from knee surgery.

Second-year goalkeeper Rosalie Bouchard-Guerin will likely step in to fill Leblanc’s place between the posts. Bouchard-Guerin gained valuable playing experience last year, and in five games she allowed only one goal in 116 minutes of action. Building on her success last season and entering this year with confidence is key for the young goaltender.

With most of the OUA’s powerhouses playing in the west division, the Gee-Gees face typically lighter competition in the east. However, marquee matchups with Laurentian, UOIT, Queen’s, and rival Carleton will provide the team with valuable experience needed in a potential playoff run.

Head coach Steve Johnson is entering his 22nd year at the helm for the Gees, and given his quality of coaching over that time the team should be well prepared for what the season throws at them.

Consistency is key in sport, and it’s hard to expect a team to struggle when they haven’t done so for the better part of two decades.

While this year may be drastically different from years past, the expectation for the women’s soccer team is success—and that won’t change anytime soon.

The Gee-Gees’ season gets underway at 6 p.m. on Aug. 26 at UOIT. The game will be livestreamed on OUA.tv.